Rhizophagy cycle endophytes
We are working to develop an understanding of rhizophagy cycle in turf grasses. The rhizophagy cycle is a new kind of symbiosis whereby plants obtain nutrients from bacteria that alternate between an intracellular/endophytic phase and a free-living soil phase. Bacteria acquire soil nutrients in the free-living soil phase; nutrients are extracted from bacteria oxidatively in the intracellular/endophytic phase. This process for nutrient extraction from microbes appears to be important in grasses and much of the experimental work involves use of turfgrass systems. There is some indication that beneficial endophytes in turf grasses may be those bacteria that are adapted to plants and participate in the rhizophagy cycle, delivering nutrients from soils; endophytes that are not beneficial in turf grasses may be those bacteria that are not adapted for the rhizophagy symbiosis and do not carry nutrients into plants.
In collaboration with Dr. Matt Elmore we are examining ways to control weeds by inhibiting the symbiosis of the weed with endophytic microbes. We have identified microbial endophytes that may be used to promote turf grass growth (and other crops), but that will simultaneously inhibit competitor weed growth. Our goal is to use endophytes to replace herbicides in turf grass systems.