Bioenergy Underground: Challenges and opportunities for phenotyping roots and the microbiome for sustainable bioenergy crop production

Larry M. York, Jonathan R. Cumming, Adrianna Trusiak, Gregory Bonito, Adam C. von Haden, Udaya C. Kalluri, Lisa K. Tiemann, Peter F. Andeer, Elena Blanc-Betes, Jonathan H. Diab, Alonso Favela, Amandine Germon, Nuria Gomez-Casanovas, Charles A. Hyde, Angela D. Kent, Dae Kwan Ko, Austin Lamb, Ali M. Missaoui, Trent R. Northen, Yunqiao PuArthur J. Ragauskas, Sierra Raglin, Henrik V. Scheller, Lorenzo Washington, Wendy H. Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bioenergy production often focuses on the aboveground feedstock production for conversion to fuel and other materials. However, the belowground component is crucial for soil carbon sequestration, greenhouse gas fluxes, and ecosystem function. Roots maximize feedstock production on marginal lands by acquiring soil resources and mediating soil ecosystem processes through interactions with the microbial community. This belowground world is challenging to observe and quantify; however, there are unprecedented opportunities using current methodologies to bring roots, microbes, and soil into focus. These opportunities allow not only breeding for increased feedstock production but breeding for increased soil health and carbon sequestration as well. A recent workshop hosted by the USDOE Bioenergy Research Centers highlighted these challenges and opportunities while creating a roadmap for increased collaboration and data interoperability through standardization of methodologies and data using F.A.I.R. principles. This article provides a background on the need for belowground research in bioenergy cropping systems, a primer on root system properties of major U.S. bioenergy crops, and an overview of the roles of root chemistry, exudation, and microbial interactions on sustainability. Crucially, we outline how to adopt standardized measures and databases to meet the most pressing methodological needs to accelerate root, soil, and microbial research to meet the pressing societal challenges of the century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere20028
JournalPlant Phenome Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Plant Science


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