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      Acid or base? How do plants regulate the ecology of their phylloplane?


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          Plants interface with and modify the external environment across their surfaces, and in so doing, can control or mitigate the impacts of abiotic stresses and also mediate their interactions with other organisms. Botanically, it is known that plant roots have a multi-faceted ability to modify rhizosphere conditions like pH, a factor with a large effect on a plant’s biotic interactions with microbes. But plants can also modify pH levels on the surfaces of their leaves. Plants can neutralize acid rain inputs in a period of hours, and either acidify or alkalinize the pH of neutral water droplets in minutes. The pH of the phylloplane—that is, the outermost surface of the leaf—varies across species, from incredibly acidic (carnivorous plants: as low as pH 1) to exceptionally alkaline (species in the plant family, Malvaceae, up to pH 11). However, most species mildly acidify droplets on the phylloplane by 1.5 orders of magnitude in pH. Just as rhizosphere pH helps shape the plant microbiome and is known to influence belowground interactions, so too can phylloplane pH influence aboveground interactions in plant canopies. In this review, we discuss phylloplane pH regulation from the physiological, molecular, evolutionary, and ecological perspectives and address knowledge gaps and identify future research directions.


          Plants alter external environmental conditions in many ways. Well-known is the fact that roots alter the pH of the surrounding soil. However, less appreciated is the fact that plants also alter pH levels on their leaf surfaces. Our review explores this little-known topic; we discuss variation in leaf surface pH across a diversity of plants, the physiological ways by which plants can modify leaf surface pH and the importance of this trait to ecological interactions, including those with microbes and insects. This topic presents many unanswered questions awaiting future work, with relevance to agriculture as well as wild ecosystems.

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          Most cited references 105

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              The rhizosphere microbiome: significance of plant beneficial, plant pathogenic, and human pathogenic microorganisms.

              Microbial communities play a pivotal role in the functioning of plants by influencing their physiology and development. While many members of the rhizosphere microbiome are beneficial to plant growth, also plant pathogenic microorganisms colonize the rhizosphere striving to break through the protective microbial shield and to overcome the innate plant defense mechanisms in order to cause disease. A third group of microorganisms that can be found in the rhizosphere are the true and opportunistic human pathogenic bacteria, which can be carried on or in plant tissue and may cause disease when introduced into debilitated humans. Although the importance of the rhizosphere microbiome for plant growth has been widely recognized, for the vast majority of rhizosphere microorganisms no knowledge exists. To enhance plant growth and health, it is essential to know which microorganism is present in the rhizosphere microbiome and what they are doing. Here, we review the main functions of rhizosphere microorganisms and how they impact on health and disease. We discuss the mechanisms involved in the multitrophic interactions and chemical dialogues that occur in the rhizosphere. Finally, we highlight several strategies to redirect or reshape the rhizosphere microbiome in favor of microorganisms that are beneficial to plant growth and health. © 2013 Federation of European Microbiological Societies. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. All rights reserved.

                Author and article information

                Role: Associate Editor
                AoB Plants
                AoB Plants
                AoB Plants
                Oxford University Press (US )
                August 2021
                10 June 2021
                10 June 2021
                : 13
                : 4
                Department of Entomology, The Pennsylvania State University , 501 Agricultural Sciences and Industries Building, University Park, PA 16802, USA
                Author notes
                Corresponding author’s email address: kjg5649@ 123456psu.edu
                © The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Annals of Botany Company.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Page count
                Pages: 14
                Funded by: U.S. Department of Agriculture, DOI 10.13039/100000199;
                Funded by: National Institute of Food and Agriculture, DOI 10.13039/100005825;
                Award ID: 2019-67012-29872
                Funded by: National Science Foundation, DOI 10.13039/100000001;
                Award ID: DEB 1762760
                Award ID: 2030871


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