PIs: Matthew Blow (JGI), Adam Deutschbauer (PBD)
High yield agricultural plant growth is currently dependent on costly and environmentally damaging phosphate fertilizers. One approach to alleviating this dependency is to develop bacterial strains that can convert existing phosphorus sources in the soil to soluble forms available for plant uptake. Past attempts at developing such strains have been hindered by incomplete knowledge of the genes required for phosphorus solubilization, and failure of bacterial strains to survive in the plant root environment. To address these challenges, we propose using genome wide mutagenesis of phosphate solubilizing bacteria to discover novel genes and pathways underlying solubilization of phosphorus sources. We will then use synthetic biology approaches to validate these novel genes and functions in E.coli, and ultimately to transfer novel phosphate solubilization capabilities to a plant-associated bacterium. Successful completion of this project will result in a vastly improved understanding of the genetics of phosphorus solubilization; novel biological tools for studying the interactions between plants, microbes and nutrients in the environment; and a first step in the development of alternative approaches to sustainable phosphorus use in agriculture.