Plants live in a world filled with microbes, and spend their lives engaged in the delicate dance of nurturing beneficial interactions while simultaneously reducing disease-causing interactions. How do plants engage with beneficial microorganisms while at the same time restricting pathogens? was recently selected in a crowd-sourced effort as the top, unanswered question in the field of molecular plant-microbe interactions. Elaborating on this question and setting the stage for this focus issue, the Top10 review by Thoms, Liang and Haney examines the way multiple inputs are integrated to initiate programs of immunity or mutualistic symbiosis, and how this shapes the microbiome. This comprehensive review describes the current landscape of the field, focusing on the plant-microbe-soil continuum, but providing ideas for extending these concepts to leaves, where much of the research on immunity has centered. Other papers in this issue examine the simultaneous interaction of plants with beneficial and pathogenic microorganisms, as well as many diverse relationships with beneficial microbes that can improve plant health by increasing access to nutrients or by decreasing disease.[Formula: see text] Copyright © 2021 The Author(s). This is an open access article distributed under the CC BY 4.0 International license.