In another step in the Phytobiomes Initiative, a working group of 15 scientists met November 11-12, 2015 to further develop the Phytobiomes Roadmap. The group represented the diversity of scientific disciplines encompassed in the new initiative, ranging from soil science, microbial ecology, plant pathology, animal science, and physical sciences/modeling, and hailing from both academia and industry.
This writing workgroup was largely comprised of a subset of the many participants in the highly successful meeting “Phytobiome’s 2015: Designing a new paradigm for crop improvement” held in Washington DC from June 30 to July 2, 2015. Feedback from the Washington DC meeting identified the opportunities that an understanding of Phytobiomes could provide to improve crop productivity as well as the many challenging research and translational studies that will be needed to achieve higher levels of sustainable crop production. The goal of the writing workshop was to integrate this feedback into a “Roadmap for Phytobiomes Research and Translation." The workgroup meeting was supported in part by APS, NSF, USDA-NIFA, and the US Forest Serviceand was generously hosted by The Noble Foundation in their spacious conference facility and guest accommodations at Ardmore, Oklahoma.
The Roadmap will outline the opportunities afforded by, and challenges to be tackled by a future focus on Phytobiomes. In the course of the brief meeting, spirited discussions held by the group helped to better refine 1) the definition of Phytobiomes and the foundational knowledge in support of its study, 2) major knowledge gaps in our understanding of Phytobiomes, 3) technical gaps that will need to be overcome before knowledge gaps can be filled, and 4) infrastructure, education, training, and societal engagement that will be needed to help fully integrate a Phytobiomes perspective into a new paradigm of agriculture. These intensive discussions provided greater clarity of the structure and content of the Roadmap. In a final step in the Roadmap construction, a smaller writing committee consisting of Gwyn Beattie, Sandy Pierson, Linda Kinkel, and Kellye Eversole are assembling the information into a final document that will be used to solicit engagement by government, industry and the many other stakeholders interested in advancing agricultural research and crop production.