Article: Environmental Microbiology

Linking soil’s volatilome to microbes and plant roots highlights the importance of microbes as emitters of belowground volatile signals D Schenkel, A Deveau, J Niimi, P Mariotte, A Vitra, A Meisser, A Buttler, … Environmental microbiology


Plants and microbes release a plethora of volatiles that act as signals in plant–microbe interactions. Characterizing soil’s volatilome and microbiome might shed light on the nature of relevant volatile signals and on their emitters. This hypothesis was tested by characterizing plant cover, soil’s volatilome, nutrient content and microbiomes in three grasslands of the Swiss Jura Mountains. The fingerprints of soil’s volatiles were generated by solid‐phase micro‐extraction gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, whereas high‐throughput sequencing was used to create a snapshot of soil’s microbial communities. A high similarity was observed in plant communities of two out of three sites, which was mirrored by the soil’s volatilome. Multiple factor analysis evidenced a strong association among soil’s volatilome, plant and microbial communities. The proportion of volatiles correlated to single bacterial and fungal taxa was higher than for plants. This suggests that those organisms might be major contributors to the volatilome of grassland soils. These findings illustrate that key volatiles in grassland soils might be emitted by a handful of organisms that include specific plants and microbes. Further work will be needed to unravel the structure of belowground volatiles and understand their implications for plant health and development.