The impact of domestication and crop improvement on arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis in cereals: insights from genetics and genomics

25 Jun 2018

The cereals (rice, maize, wheat, sorghum and the millets) provide over 50% of the world’s caloric intake, a value that rises to >80% in developing countries. Since domestication, cereals have been under artificial selection, largely directed towards higher yield. Throughout this process, cereals have maintained their capacity to interact with arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi, beneficial symbionts that associate with the roots of most terrestrial plants. It has been hypothesized that the shift from the wild to cultivation, and above all the last ~50 years of intensive breeding for high-input farming systems, has reduced the capacity of the major cereal crops to gain full benefit from AM interactions. Recent studies have shed further light on the molecular basis of establishment and functioning of AM symbiosis in cereals, providing insight into where the breeding process might have had an impact. Classic phytohormones, targets of artificial selection during the generation of Green Revolution semi-dwarf varieties, have emerged to be important regulators of AM symbiosis. Although there is still much to be learned about the mechanistic basis of variation in symbiotic outcome, these advances are providing an insight into the role of arbuscular mycorrhiza in agronomic systems.