Engineering the Crop Microbiota Through Host Genetics

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The microbiota populating the plant-soil continuum defines an untapped resource for sustainable crop production. The host plant is a driver for the taxonomic composition and function of these microbial communities. In this review, we illustrate how the host genetic determinants of the microbiota have been shaped by plant domestication and crop diversification. We discuss how the heritable component of microbiota recruitment may represent, at least partially, a selection for microbial functions underpinning the growth, development, and health of their host plants and how the magnitude of this heritability is influenced by the environment. We illustrate how host-microbiota interactions can be treated as an external quantitative trait and review recent studies associating crop genetics with microbiota-based quantitative traits. We also explore the results of reductionist approaches, including synthetic microbial communities, to establish causal relationships between microbiota and plant phenotypes. Lastly, we propose strategies to integrate microbiota manipulation into crop selection programs. Although a detailed understanding of when and how heritability for microbiota composition can be deployed for breeding purposes is still lacking, we argue that advances in crop genomics are likely to accelerate wider applications of plant-microbiota interactions in agriculture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-277
Number of pages21
JournalAnnual Review of Phytopathology
Early online date17 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023


  • crops
  • microbiota
  • domestication
  • roots
  • rhizosphere
  • plant breeding


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