Detecting and validating influential organisms for rice growth: An ecological network approach

  1. Hakubi Center, Kyoto University, Kyoto 606-8501, Japan
  2. Center for Ecological Research, Kyoto University, Otsu 520-2113, Japan
  3. Tropical Agriculture Research Front, Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences, Ishigaki, Okinawa 907-0002, Japan
  4. Graduate School of Agriculture, Osaka Metropolitan University, Sakai, Osaka 599-8531, Japan
  5. Faculty of Agriculture, Ryukoku University, Otsu 520-2194, Japan
  6. Institute for Advanced Biosciences, Keio University, Tsuruoka 997-0017, Japan

Peer review process

Not revised: This Reviewed Preprint includes the authors’ original preprint (without revision), an eLife assessment, and public reviews.

Read more about eLife’s peer review process.


  • Reviewing Editor
    Youngsung Joo
    Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea, the Republic of
  • Senior Editor
    Detlef Weigel
    Max Planck Institute for Biology Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany

Reviewer #1 (Public Review):

This manuscript describes the identification of influential organisms on rice growth and an attempt of validation. The analysis of eDNA on rice pot and mimic field provides rice growth promoting organisms. This approach is novel for plant ecology field. However current results did not fully support whether eDNA analysis-based detection of influencing organism.

The strength of this manuscript is to attempt application of eDNA analysis-based plant growth differentiation. The weakness is too preliminary data and experimental set-up to make any conclusion. The trials of authors experiments are ideal. However, the process of data analysis did not meet certain levels. For example, eDNA analysis of different time points on rice growth stages resulted in two influential organisms for rice growth. Then they cultivate two species and applied rice seedlings. Without understanding of fitness and robustness, how we can know the effect of the two species on rice growth.

The authors did not check the fate of two species after introducing into rice. If this is true, it is difficult to link between the rice gene expression after treatments and the effectiveness of two species. I think the validation experiment in 2019 needs to be re-conducted.

Reviewer #2 (Public Review):

The manuscript "Detecting and validating influential organisms for rice growth: An ecological network approach" explores the influence of biotic and abiotic entities that are often neglected on rice growth. The study has a straightforward experimental design, and well thought hypothesis for explorations. Monitoring data is collected to infer relationships between species and the environment empirically. It is analyzed with an up-to-date statistical method. This allowed the manuscript to hypothesize and test the effects most influential entities in a controlled experiment.

The manuscript is interesting and sets up a nice framework for future studies. In general, the manuscript can be improved significantly, when this workflow is smoothly connected and communicated how they follow each other more than the sequence and dates provided. It is valuable philosophical thinking, and the research community can benefit from this framework.

I understand the length and format of the manuscript make it difficult to add more details, but I am sure it can refer to/clear some concepts/methods that might be new for the audience. How/why variables are selected as important parts of the system, a tiny bit of information about the nonlinear time series analysis in the early manuscript, and the biological reasoning behind these statistically driven decisions are some examples.

Reviewer #3 (Public Review):

Most farming is done by subtracting or adding what people want based in nature. However, in nature, crops interact with various objects, and mostly we are unaware of their effects. In order to increase agricultural productivity, finding useful objects is very important. However, in an uncontrolled environment, it coexists with so many biological objects that it is very inefficient to verify them all experimentally. It is therefore necessary to develop an effective screening method to identify external environmental factors that can increase crop productivity. This study identified factors presumed to be important to crop growth based on metabarcoding analysis, field sampling, and non-linear analysis/information theory, and conducted a mesocosm experiment to verify them experimentally. In conclusion, the object proposed by the author did not increase rice yield, but rather rice growth rate.

In actual field data, since many variables are involved in a specific phenomenon, it is necessary to effectively eliminate false positives. Based on the metabarcoding technique, various variables that may affect rice growth were quantitatively measured, although not perfectly, and the causal relationship between these variables and rice growth was analyzed by using information transfer analysis. Using this method, two new players capable of manipulating rice growth were verified, despite their unknown functions until now. I found this process to be very logical, and I think it will be valuable in subsequent ecological studies.

CK treatment's effectiveness remains questionable. Rice's growth was clearly altered by CK treatment. The validation of the CK treatment itself is not clear compared to the GN treatment, and the transcriptome data analysis results do not show that DEG is not present. The possibility of a side effect caused by a variable that the author cannot control remains a possibility in this case. Even though this part is mentioned in Discussion, it is necessary to discuss various possibilities in more detail.

  1. Howard Hughes Medical Institute
  2. Wellcome Trust
  3. Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
  4. Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation