New Phytologist 0 (Dec 26 2018)
Summary There is a dynamic reciprocity between plants and their environment: soil physiochemical properties influence plant morphology and metabolism, and root morphology and exudates shape the environment surrounding roots. Here, we investigate the reproducibility of plant trait changes in response to three growth environments. We utilized fabricated ecosystem (EcoFAB) devices to grow the model grass Brachypodium distachyon in three distinct media across four laboratories: phosphate-sufficient and -deficient mineral media allowed to assess the effects of phosphate starvation, and a complex, sterile soil extract represented a more natural environment with yet uncharacterized effects on plant growth and metabolism. Tissue weight and phosphate content, total root length, and root tissue and exudate metabolic profiles were consistent across laboratories and distinct between experimental treatments. Plants grown in soil extract were morphologically and metabolically distinct, with root hairs four times longer compared to other growth conditions. Further, plants depleted half of the investigated metabolites from the soil extract. To interact with their environment, plants not only adapt morphology and release complex metabolite mixtures; they also selectively deplete a range of soil-derived metabolites. The EcoFABs utilized here generated high inter-laboratory reproducibility, demonstrating that their value in standardized investigations of plant traits. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.