Coffee plants have core relationships with certain bacteria and fungi. A team of ecologists based in Toronto has identified certain fungi and bacteria that have consistent relationships with coffee plants. The study, which is published by the American Phytopathological Society, is shedding new light on how coffee plants will respond to changing climate conditions.
The experts turned to the tissues of coffee roots to search for a “core microbiome,” or microorganisms that are tightly associated with coffee plants.
The research team used advanced sequencing techniques on coffee samples from a number of Central American farms that had drastically different environmental conditions and management practices.
The consistent presence of certain microbes within a particular plant is strongly indicative of symbiotic relationships, which are partnerships formed for the benefit of one or both organisms.
The researchers discovered 26 bacterial and 31 fungal species that met their criteria for belonging to the core microbiome. Some of the species have been previously recognized for having plant-beneficial properties and are good candidates for further research.
“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,” explained study co-author Roberta Fulthorpe. “We also found that fungi appear to be related to coffee root characteristics while bacteria are not.”
The finding that a number of highly abundant microbial species persist in coffee is a remarkable one, according to study co-author Adam Martin.
“That the same species are found across a huge range of temperatures, precipitation, soil conditions, and light availability, is novel evidence of a core microbiome that actually exists in real-world conditions,” said Martin.
“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 flavor of our morning cup of coffee is influenced by the plant’s microbes.”
The study is published in the Phytobiomes Journal.