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Keywords:

  • rhizosphere;
  • root exudation;
  • rhizodeposition;
  • soil;
  • microbial ecology

Abstract

This review evaluates the importance of root exudates in determining rhizosphere bacterial community structure. We present evidence that indicates that: (1) the direct influence of root exudates on rhizosphere bacterial communities is limited to small spatiotemporal windows related to root apices; (2) upon rapid assimilation by microorganisms, root exudates are modified, independent of plant influences, before rerelease into the rhizosphere by the microorganisms themselves – thus, at short distances from root apices, rhizosphere carbon pools are unlikely to be dominated by root exudates; and (3) many of the major compounds found in root exudates are ubiquitous in the rhizosphere as they are found in other pools of rhizodeposits and in microbial exudates. Following this argument, we suggest that the importance of root exudates in structuring rhizosphere bacterial communities needs to be considered in the context of the wider contribution of other rhizosphere carbon pools. Finally, we discuss the implications of rhizosphere bacterial distribution trends for the development of effective strategies to manage beneficial plant–microorganism interactions.