Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

It Takes a Community of Soil Microbes to Protect Plants From Disease

06.05.2011
Berkeley Lab scientists decipher immune system for plants beneath our feet

Those vegetables you had for dinner may have once been protected by an immune system akin to the one that helps you fight disease. Scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the Netherland’s Wageningen University found that plants rely on a complex community of soil microbes to defend themselves against pathogens, much the way mammals harbor a raft of microbes to avoid infections.

In a development that could lead to better ways to protect food crops from disease, Berkeley Lab scientists unraveled the community of soil microbes that protect sugar beets from root fungus. From left, Todd DeSantis, Gary Andersen, and Yvette Piceno in the lab where much of the research was conducted. Several PhyloChips are on the table next to them. (Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt, Berkeley Lab Public Affairs)

The scientists deciphered, for the first time, the group of microbes that enables a patch of soil to suppress a plant-killing pathogen. Previous research on the phenomenon of disease-suppressive soil had identified one or two pathogen-fighting microbes at work.

But the Berkeley Lab-led team found a complex microbial network. After analyzing soil from a sugar beet field that had become resistant to a pathogen that causes root fungus, the scientists found 17 soil microbes fighting to suppress the pathogen. They also determined that all of the microbes work together to reduce the incidence of fungal infection. Their discovery that plants use a tight-knit army of soil microbes for defense could help scientists develop ways to better protect the world’s food crops from devastating diseases.

“Individual organisms have been associated with disease-suppressive soil before, but we demonstrated that many organisms in combination are associated with this phenomenon,” says Gary Andersen of Berkeley Lab’s Earth Sciences Division. He conducted the research with fellow Berkeley Lab scientists Todd DeSantis and Yvette Piceno as well as several scientists from the Netherlands including Wageningen University’s Jos Raaijmakers. Their research is published in the May 5 issue of Science Express.

The Berkeley Lab and Dutch scientists analyzed soil from a sugar beet field in the Netherlands. Something in the soil suppressed the presence of the pathogen Rhizoctonia solani, which causes root fungus in beets, potato, and rice.

The sugar beets’ health followed the typical arc of plants in disease-suppressive soil: they enjoyed a few good years, then they succumbed to disease, followed by healthy beets again as pathogen-fighting microbes were activated and the soil became hostile to R. solani. To return the favor, the sugar beets funnel about a fifth of their photosynthetically captured carbon through their roots into the soil to fuel the microbes.

New research reveals that it takes a community of soil microbes, not just one or two, to protect crops. The top image is a healthy sugar beet field. The bottom image is a field of sugar beets that is infected with root fungus.

Disease-suppressive soils are quite common, and scientists have identified some of the microbes involved in this underground immune system. But they don’t know all of the microbes that participate.

To find out, the scientists used the PhyloChip, which is a credit-card sized chip that can detect the presence of 59,000 species of bacteria and archaea in samples of air, water, and soil without the need of culturing. It was developed at Berkeley Lab to rapidly identify not only the most common and abundant organisms in an environmental sample, but also very rare types that are present in extremely small numbers. It does this by comparing a DNA sequences unique to each bacterial species with over one million reference DNA targets on the chip. The PhyloChip has shed light on many environmental mysteries, such as what’s killing coral reefs near Puerto Rico and what degraded much of the oil from the Gulf of Mexico’s Deepwater Horizon spill.

In this case, soil samples from the sugar beet field were modified to exhibit six levels of disease suppression. DNA was isolated from the samples and sent to Berkeley Lab for analysis. The PhyloChip detected more than 33,000 bacterial and archaeal species in the samples, with all six having more or less the same types of bacteria.

But when the scientists looked at the abundance of bacteria in each sample, they found that each had a unique fingerprint. All of the samples in which disease was suppressed had a greater abundance of 17 unique types of bacteria. These included well-known fungal fighters such as Psuedomonas, Burkholderia, Xanthomonas and Actinobacteria. In addition, other types of bacteria that have no demonstrated ability to fight pathogens on their own were found to act synergistically to suppress plant disease.

Based on this, the scientists believe that an uptick in several bacterial types is a more important indicator of disease suppression than the presence of one or two bacteria that are especially good at killing pathogens.

“We now see that the complex phenomenon of disease suppression in soils cannot simply be attributed to a single bacterial group, but is most likely controlled by a community of organisms,” says Andersen.

Their research will help scientists pursue unanswered questions about disease-suppressive soil: Do plants actively recruit beneficial soil microorganisms for protection against infection? And if so, how do they do it? It will also help scientists elucidate the mechanisms by which groups of soil microbes work together to reduce the incidence of plant disease.

The research was supported in part by the California Environmental Protection Agency’s State Water Resources Control Board and the Rathmann Family Foundation.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory addresses the world’s most urgent scientific challenges by advancing sustainable energy, protecting human health, creating new materials, and revealing the origin and fate of the universe. Founded in 1931, Berkeley Lab’s scientific expertise has been recognized with 12 Nobel prizes. The University of California manages Berkeley Lab for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

Dan Krotz | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.lbl.gov

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Fighting a destructive crop disease with mathematics
21.06.2017 | University of Cambridge

nachricht Unusual soybean coloration sheds a light on gene silencing
20.06.2017 | University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>