Scientists explore coffee microbiome to understand responses to climate
A group of ecologists set out to explore the “core microbiome” of coffee in order to find signs of microbes which could lead to better understanding of how the plant reacts to changing climatic conditions.
For most people, coffee is a necessary start to the day. For three scientists based in Toronto, coffee is a good research subject in a world with a changing climate.
The scientists, from the American Phytopathological Society, explored the tissues of coffee roots to look for signs of a “core microbiome,” or for signs of microbes, such as bacteria and fungi, that form partnerships with the coffee plant.
The existence of consistent microbes within a certain plant microbiome is said to be strongly indicative of beneficial relationships and a better understanding could be helpful in determining best management practices and predicting coffee responses to changing conditions, the scientists explained.
The ecologists used next generation sequencing methods on samples from a number of Central American farms that differed drastically in environmental conditions and management systems. They discovered 26 bacterial and 31 fungal species that met their criteria for belonging to the core microbiome. Some of these species are known to have plant-beneficial properties and should be investigated in more detail, they suggested.
“The bacterial core microbiome is much stronger and consistent, while the fungal microbiome is more sensitive to environmental conditions that are expected to expand in range with climate change,” said Roberta Fulthorpe, one of the scientists behind the research. “We also found that fungi appear to be related to coffee root characteristics while bacteria are not.”
Team member Adam Martin said: “The same species are found across a huge range of temperatures, precipitation, soil conditions, and light availability, and is novel evidence of a core microbiome that actually exists in real-world conditions.
“Our results open the door for understanding if or how microbiomes can be managed in real-world cropping systems. Our work also leads to interesting questions on whether or not the flavour of our morning cup of coffee is influenced by the plant’s microbes.”