ECOLOGY, PHYSIOLOGY AND BIOCHEMISTRY OF PLANT SYMBIOTIC MICRO-ORGANISMS
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Vascular plants have been considered as autonomous organisms especially when their performance has been interpreted at the genome and cellular level. In reality, vascular plants provide a unique ecological niche for diverse communities of cryptic symbiotic microbes which often contribute multiple benefits, such as enhanced photosynthetic efficiency, nutrient and water use and tolerance to abiotic and biotic stress. These benefits are similar to improvements sought by plant scientists working to develop ecologically sustainable crops for food, fiber and biofuels.
Native desert plants include a community of indigenous endosymbiotic fungi that are structural components with cells, tissues, cell cultures and regenerated plants. These fungi regulate plant growth and development and contribute genes and natural products that enable plants to adapt to changing environments. A method developed for transferring these endophytes from cell cultures to non-host plants promises to be a revolutionary approach for the development of novel plant germplasm and has application in the field of plant biotechnology.