Trees are crucial for sustaining life on our planet. Forests and land devoted to tree crops do not only supply essential edible products to humans and animals, but also additional goods such as paper or wood. They also prevent soil erosion, support microbial, animal, and plant biodiversity, play key roles in nutrient and water cycling processes, and mitigate the effects of climate change acting as carbon dioxide sinks. Hence, the health of forests and tree cropping systems is of particular significance. In particular, soil/rhizosphere/root-associated microbial communities (known as microbiota) are decisive to sustain the fitness, development, and productivity of trees. These benefits rely on processes aiming to enhance nutrient assimilation efficiency (plant growth promotion) and/or to protect against a number of (a)biotic constraints. Moreover, specific members of the microbial communities associated with perennial tree crops interact with soil invertebrate food webs, underpinning many density regulation mechanisms. This review discusses belowground microbiota interactions influencing the growth of tree crops. The study of tree-(micro)organism interactions taking place at the belowground level is crucial to understand how they contribute to processes like carbon sequestration, regulation of ecosystem functioning, and nutrient cycling. A comprehensive understanding of the relationship between roots and their associate microbiota can also facilitate the design of novel sustainable approaches for the benefit of these relevant agro-ecosystems. Here, we summarize the methodological approaches to unravel the composition and function of belowground microbiota, the factors influencing their interaction with tree crops, their benefits and harms, with a focus on representative examples of Biological Control Agents (BCA) used against relevant biotic constraints of tree crops. Finally, we add some concluding remarks and suggest future perspectives concerning the microbiota-assisted management strategies to sustain tree crops.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Microbiology (medical)
Mercado-Blanco, J., Abrantes, I., Caracciolo, A. B., Bevivino, A., Ciancio, A., Grenni, P., Hrynkiewicz, K., Kredics, L., & Proença, D. N. (2018). Belowground microbiota and the health of tree crops. Frontiers in Microbiology, 9(JUN), -. . https://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2018.01006