Under field conditions most plants are stressed for at least a part of every day. Signal exchange between plants and microorganisms is particularly susceptible to the imposition of abiotic and biotic stresses, because this system involves two genomes, each with its own environmental sensitivities, and because the two organisms may not be in direct contact with each other at the time of signal exchange, so that this process takes place through time and space, under potentially unfavorable conditions. We have shown here a practical example of environmental conditions disrupting the signaling process, leading to less efficient establishment of the soybean-/?, japonicum nitrogen-fixing symbiosis, and some potentially practical solutions to this situation. In the course of this work we made a serendipitous discovery with regard to the potential control of plant growth by the signal molecules of microbes. This finding has potentially large applications in the understanding of the controls on plant growth and, also, in world food production.
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