Availability of water and plant nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus is the major limitation for plant growth in most natural and agronomic ecosystems. This has led to an increasing dependence on nitrogen and phosphate-based fertilizers. Besides the high cost of such fertilizers, health, and ecological hazards are also associated with fertilizer treatments. Therefore, it is imperative to find alternatives to fertilizers for sustainable agriculture, for producing renewable biofuels and for minimizing health and ecological hazards.
An alternative to fertilizers is to take advantage of naturally occurring beneficial plant-microbe associations. Plants can form beneficial symbiotic associations with different microbes (e.g., soil bacteria rhizobia, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, plant growth-promoting bacteria, etc.). These associations promote plant growth and make them less reliant on harmful fertilizers. My research combines genetics, genomics, and physiological approaches to understand these plant-microbe symbioses.