Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Microscopic partners could help plants survive stressful environments

30.01.2020

Tiny, symbiotic fungi play an outsized role in helping plants survive stresses like drought and extreme temperatures, which could help feed a planet experiencing climate change, report scientists at Washington State University.

Recently published in the journal Functional Ecology, the discovery by plant-microbe biologist Stephanie Porter and plant pathologist Maren Friesen sheds light on how microbe partners can help sustainably grow a wide variety of crops.


Blue-stained filaments of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus, which lives in symbiosis with plants, inhabit plant roots in this microscope image.

Photo by Ashley Finnestad, T.E. Cheeke Lab, WSU.

Tiny partners in plant survival

While some microscopic fungi and bacteria cause disease, others live in harmony with plants, collecting water and nutrients in exchange for carbohydrates, or changing plants' internal and external environment in ways that help plants grow.

These benefits help plants tolerate stresses that come from their environment. Dubbed abiotic stresses, challenges such as drought, extreme temperatures, and poor, toxic, or saline soils are among the leading causes of crop loss and decreasing farm productivity.

"Plants' abilities to tolerate stress are impacted by the bacteria and fungi that live on or inside them and make up the plant microbiome," said Porter, assistant professor in the School of Biological Sciences. "Just like how microbes in our digestive system help keep us healthy, microbes play an incredibly important role in plant health."

Setting out to measure how beneficial microbes affect plants under both normal conditions and stress, Porter and Friesen reviewed 89 research experiments ranging from common Northwest food crops to wild species.

Working with colleagues at Michigan State University and WSU, they compared five different classes of symbiotic bacteria and fungi that live on, in, and around plant roots, under stresses that included fungal diseases, grazing by animals and microscopic worms, heavy metal contamination, and drought, cold, and saline soils. Then, they tallied the effect on plant growth, biomass and yield.

Results showed that while beneficial bacteria are more helpful in normal conditions, symbiotic fungi provide added benefits during crises.

"Stress makes these fungi even more important to plants, which we think is really interesting," said Friesen, assistant professor in the Department of Plant Pathology.

Particularly beneficial were arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, which colonize plant roots, provide water, and enhance uptake of nitrogen, phosphorus, and other micronutrients in the soil.

"Should growers want to foster the plant microbiome for stress resistance, our study suggests they should really focus on fungi," Porter said. "These beneficial microbes could be the key to helping us grow more food in the coming decades."

A greener solution to stress

With earth's population predicted to top 9 billion by 2050, scientists predict that current crop yields will need to double.

"As we expand where we grow crops, we're using marginal areas that are more stressful for plants," Porter said. "And as our climate changes, that creates stress for plants.

"Maren and I wanted to be forward-looking," she added. "We wanted to find evidence of how we can best use beneficial microbes to mitigate the stresses that we know are coming."

Microbes offer a more sustainable tool for stress tolerance than applying hormones or chemicals, noted Friesen.

"Farmers are now having challenges with pathogens no longer responding to chemical treatments," she said. "There's already a lot of interest in scientific and industry circles in identifying and harnessing microbial solutions to agricultural problems. This study gives us ideas about where to look."

Media Contact

Stephanie Porter
stephanie.porter@wsu.edu
360-546-9478

 @WSUNews

http://www.wsu.edu 

Stephanie Porter | EurekAlert!
Further information:
https://news.wsu.edu/2020/01/29/microscopic-partners-help-plants-survive-stressful-environments/
http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1365-2435.13499

Further reports about: bacteria crop fungi microbes microscopic saline stressful environments

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Sustainable forest management contributes more to climate protection than forest wilderness
07.02.2020 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie

nachricht Screening sweet peppers for organic farming
29.01.2020 | American Society for Horticultural Science

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: Skyrmions like it hot: Spin structures are controllable even at high temperatures

Investigation of the temperature dependence of the skyrmion Hall effect reveals further insights into possible new data storage devices

The joint research project of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that had previously demonstrated...

Im Focus: Making the internet more energy efficient through systemic optimization

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, recently completed a 5-year research project looking at how to make fibre optic communications systems more energy efficient. Among their proposals are smart, error-correcting data chip circuits, which they refined to be 10 times less energy consumptive. The project has yielded several scientific articles, in publications including Nature Communications.

Streaming films and music, scrolling through social media, and using cloud-based storage services are everyday activities now.

Im Focus: New synthesis methods enhance 3D chemical space for drug discovery

After helping develop a new approach for organic synthesis -- carbon-hydrogen functionalization -- scientists at Emory University are now showing how this approach may apply to drug discovery. Nature Catalysis published their most recent work -- a streamlined process for making a three-dimensional scaffold of keen interest to the pharmaceutical industry.

"Our tools open up whole new chemical space for potential drug targets," says Huw Davies, Emory professor of organic chemistry and senior author of the paper.

Im Focus: Quantum fluctuations sustain the record superconductor

Superconductivity approaching room temperature may be possible in hydrogen-rich compounds at much lower pressures than previously expected

Reaching room-temperature superconductivity is one of the biggest dreams in physics. Its discovery would bring a technological revolution by providing...

Im Focus: New coronavirus module in SORMAS

HZI-developed app for disease control is expanded to stop the spread of the pathogen

At the end of December 2019, the first cases of pneumonia caused by a novel coronavirus were reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan. Since then, infections...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

70th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting: Around 70 Laureates set to meet with young scientists from approx. 100 countries

12.02.2020 | Event News

11th Advanced Battery Power Conference, March 24-25, 2020 in Münster/Germany

16.01.2020 | Event News

Laser Colloquium Hydrogen LKH2: fast and reliable fuel cell manufacturing

15.01.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

Electric solid propellant -- can it take the heat?

14.02.2020 | Physics and Astronomy

Pitt study uncovers new electronic state of matter

14.02.2020 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers observe quantum interferences in real-time using a new extreme ultra-violet light spectroscopy technique

14.02.2020 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>