A special root slime helps plants like this pine tree
pull nutrients from bare rock. Flickr photo courtesy
of eviltomthai:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/
eviltomthai/with/3962306712
PULLMAN – WSU researchers have received half a million dollars to study a microscopic slime that they believe plays an outsized role in life on the planet.
 
The root biofilm is central to the earth’s balance of carbon, how soil is formed, the foundation of plant life and possibly the future of agriculture.
 
But there’s a mystery to the process, which Kent Keller and a group of colleagues will explore with $492,000 from the National Science Foundation. Keller is co-director of the Center for Environmental Research, Education and Outreach (CEREO) and professor in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences.
 
In addition to Keller, the project’s principal investigators are: Jim Harsh, crop and soil sciences; Linda Thomashow, plant pathology; Rick Gill, Brigham Young University; and Zsuzsanna Balogh-Brunstad, Hartwick College. Collaborating with them are: Michael Knoblauch, School of Biological Sciences and Franceschi Microscopy and Imaging Center; Chongxuan Liu, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; and Bernard Bormann, U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Laboratory in Corvallis, Ore.
 
Read more at Washington State Magazine’s Discovery blog here.