Plant-soil feedback: incorporating untested influential drivers and reconciling terminology

Jonathan R. De Long*, Robin Heinen, Johannes Heinze, Elly Morriën, G. Kenny Png, Sarah J. Sapsford, François P. Teste, Ellen L. Fry

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
30 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Plants condition the soil in which they grow, thereby altering the performance of subsequent plants growing in this soil. This phenomenon, known as plant-soil feedback (PSF), has garnered increasing interest. Experiments are moving from single species soil pairings in the glasshouse to community-level field trials. Consequently, our knowledge of the role PSF plays in shaping ecosystem functions has advanced. However, knowledge gaps remain. Scope: Here, we explore intrinsic and extrinsic abiotic and biotic drivers of PSF such as maternal effects, plant functional traits, self-DNA, plant-plant competition, herbivory, interactions between soil organisms, temperature, drought, flooding, greenhouse gases, (micro)nutrients, plant-litter-soil feedback and priority effects. These drivers have begun to feature in experiments, thereby increasing our mechanistic understanding of PSF. Nonetheless, many of these topics have received insufficient coverage to determine general principles across larger temporal and spatial scales. Further, conflicting terminology has excluded PSF studies from reviews and meta-analyses. We review terms such as soil sickness, Janzen-Connell hypothesis, soil-related invasive species work, soil legacies, allelopathy and soil-related succession that overlap with PSF but are generally not named as such. Conclusion: Holistic experimental designs that consider the continual reciprocal feedback between the extrinsic environment, plants and soil, as well as the unification of terminologies are necessary if we are to realise the full potential of PSF for understanding and steering ecosystem processes. Here, we compile outstanding questions related to PSF research that emphasis the aforementioned topics and suggest ways to incorporate them into future research in order to advance plant-soil ecology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-43
Number of pages37
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number1-2
Early online date11 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - 11 Feb 2023


  • Above-belowground interactions
  • Allelopathy
  • Decomposition
  • Herbivory
  • Invasive species
  • Janzen-Connell
  • Maternal effects
  • Plant functional traits
  • Plant-soil-litter feedback
  • Priority effects
  • Self-DNA
  • Soil legacies
  • Soil sickness
  • Succession


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