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Researchers are looking to the micro-biomes surrounding phragmites to see if any of the bacterial or fungal microbes present can promote, inhibit or, in general, have an effect on the growth or hardiness of the invasive species. Which has been done before (most notably with the invasive cheatgrass), but, according to James White, professor of plant biology and pathology at Rutgers University and a member of the Great Lakes Phragmites Collaborative, it's rare to find a microbe that performs well and only affects a few, or the desired, plant species.
And it's also difficult to know which microbes are doing what. "If we do [the experiments] in the greenhouse or in the field," said White, "there are microbes everywhere."
While aware of the difficulties inherent in the research, White, and others of the collaborative, are hopeful. "We're very early in these kind of microbiome studies," said White. "I think there's a lot of potential in this whole area of managing."
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