Plant and Soil

, Volume 321, Issue 1, pp 341-361

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

The rhizosphere: a playground and battlefield for soilborne pathogens and beneficial microorganisms

  • Jos M. RaaijmakersAffiliated withLaboratory of Phytopathology, Wageningen University Email author 
  • , Timothy C. PaulitzAffiliated withUSDA-ARS
  • , Christian SteinbergAffiliated withINRA-Université de Bourgogne, UMR-MSE
  • , Claude AlabouvetteAffiliated withINRA-Université de Bourgogne, UMR-MSE
  • , Yvan Moënne-LoccozAffiliated withUniversité Lyon 1UMR CNRS 5557, Ecologie Microbienne


The rhizosphere is a hot spot of microbial interactions as exudates released by plant roots are a main food source for microorganisms and a driving force of their population density and activities. The rhizosphere harbors many organisms that have a neutral effect on the plant, but also attracts organisms that exert deleterious or beneficial effects on the plant. Microorganisms that adversely affect plant growth and health are the pathogenic fungi, oomycetes, bacteria and nematodes. Most of the soilborne pathogens are adapted to grow and survive in the bulk soil, but the rhizosphere is the playground and infection court where the pathogen establishes a parasitic relationship with the plant. The rhizosphere is also a battlefield where the complex rhizosphere community, both microflora and microfauna, interact with pathogens and influence the outcome of pathogen infection. A wide range of microorganisms are beneficial to the plant and include nitrogen-fixing bacteria, endo- and ectomycorrhizal fungi, and plant growth-promoting bacteria and fungi. This review focuses on the population dynamics and activity of soilborne pathogens and beneficial microorganisms. Specific attention is given to mechanisms involved in the tripartite interactions between beneficial microorganisms, pathogens and the plant. We also discuss how agricultural practices affect pathogen and antagonist populations and how these practices can be adopted to promote plant growth and health.


Epidemiology of soilborne pathogens Microbial interactions Induced systemic resistance Antibiotic resistance in pathogens Biofumigation and organic amendment