Selecting winter wheat for more than just yield: Improving soil health, microbial diversity, and grain micronutrient density across Washington State

There is much we do not know about the soil microbiome and little has been done to explore soil microbe x plant genotype x environment interactions. Classical wheat breeding strategies focus on yield and aboveground metrics, but recent work has identified soil and rhizosphere (area of the soil influenced by roots) characteristics that can be altered by wheat genotype recruitment of beneficial soil microorganisms. Beneficial soil microorganisms are a renewable, non-polluting resource that have been largely ignored until recent tools became available to handle big data and high throughput screening techniques for soil microbial diversity. Studies have shown increased nutrient cycling and bioavailability, as well as increased microbial biodiversity and enhanced disease suppression associated with certain wheat genotypes, but the full panel of the WSU variety trials has not previously been leveraged. Our proposed work will do just that, examining differences in soil health, microbial taxonomic and functional diversity, as well as how those factors are associated with yield and grain micronutrient density in 18 cultivars of winter wheat, in seven different locations across Washington state. This will allow us to address both of the WSU grand challenges of sustaining resources and sustaining health. Specific objectives for this study include 1) Documenting the diversity of microbial populations among commonly grown wheat genotypes and 2) Identifying possible associations among specific microbes and plant performance for parameters such as yield and grain micronutrient density. This information will provide more tools for wheat breeders to select for more efficient, nutritious, and higher yielding wheat cultivars and lead to better soil and human health, benefiting growers and society at large.

Grant Information

  • Project ID: 199
  • Project Status: Complete