Biotech Updates

Researchers Use Wheat's Bacterial Partners to Fight A Pathogen

August 22, 2018

Fusarium head blight is a devastating fungal disease that affects wheat and barley crops worldwide. The American Phytopathological Society reports that the disease has cost U.S. wheat and barley farmers more than $3 billion since 1990.

Scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), together with land managers and other scientists at research universities, are taking different approaches to solve this problem. Scientists have taken an interest in using beneficial species from wheat's microbiome to help the plant's immune system fight off enemies.

Graduate student Briana Whitaker and USDA-ARS microbiologist Matt G. Bakker have identified beneficial bacteria from the wheat microbiome and are pitting these against the Fusarium head blight fungus. The research is still in the early stages, but the research group is comparing the interactions of the two microbial adversaries under laboratory conditions and also within the plant.

For more details, read the USDA media release.