Roots remain an understudied site of complex and important biological interactions mediating plant productivity. In grain and bioenergy crops, grass root specialized metabolites (GRSM) are central to key interactions, yet our basic knowledge of the chemical language remains fragmentary. Continued improvements in plant genome assembly and metabolomics are enabling large-scale advances in the discovery of specialized metabolic pathways as a means of regulating root-biotic interactions. Metabolomics, transcript coexpression analyses, forward genetic studies, gene synthesis and heterologous expression assays drive efficient pathway discoveries. Functional genetic variants identified through genome wide analyses, targeted CRISPR/Cas9 approaches, and both native and non-native overexpression studies critically inform novel strategies for bioengineering metabolic pathways to improve plant traits.