Impacts of directed evolution and soil management legacy on the maize rhizobiome

Jennifer E. Schmidt, Jorge L. Mazza Rodrigues, Vanessa L. Brisson, Angela Kent, Amélie C.M. Gaudin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Domestication and agricultural intensification dramatically altered maize and its cultivation environment. Changes in maize genetics (G) and environmental (E) conditions increased productivity under high-synthetic-input conditions. However, novel selective pressures on the rhizobiome may have incurred undesirable tradeoffs in organic agroecosystems, where plants obtain nutrients via microbially mediated processes including mineralization of organic matter. Using twelve maize genotypes representing an evolutionary transect (teosintes, landraces, inbred parents of modern elite germplasm, and modern hybrids) and two agricultural soils with contrasting long-term management, we integrated analyses of rhizobiome community structure, potential microbe-microbe interactions, and N-cycling functional genes to better understand the impacts of maize evolution and soil management legacy on rhizobiome recruitment. We show complex shifts in rhizobiome communities during directed evolution of maize (defined as the transition from teosinte to modern hybrids), with a larger effect of domestication (teosinte to landraces) than modern breeding (inbreds to hybrids) on rhizobiome structure and greater impacts of modern breeding on potential microbe-microbe interactions. Rhizobiome structure was significantly correlated with plant nutrient composition. Furthermore, plant biomass and nutrient content were affected by G x E interactions in which teosinte and landrace genotypes had better relative performance in the organic legacy soil than inbred and modern genotypes. The abundance of six N-cycling genes of relevance for plant nutrition and N loss pathways did not significantly differ between teosinte and modern rhizospheres in either soil management legacy. These results provide insight into the potential for improving maize adaptation to organic systems and contribute to interdisciplinary efforts toward developing resource-efficient, biologically based agroecosystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107794
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
StatePublished - Jun 2020


  • Agroecosystem
  • Breeding
  • Domestication
  • Genotype-by-environment interaction
  • Maize
  • Rhizosphere

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Soil Science


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