Biotech Updates

First-ever Engineered Plant Microbiome Protects Crops Against Diseases

January 10, 2024

Researchers from the University of Southampton have successfully engineered the microbiome of plants for the first time to boost crop health by increasing the presence of good bacteria in plants. The findings of the paper published in Nature Communications could reduce the need and reliance on pesticides that are usually harmful to the environment.

Microbiomes in the human gut influence the immune system, which will fight against disease-causing organisms. In plants, microbiomes such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other microorganisms present in roots, stems, and leaves affect the vulnerability of plants to various diseases.

The research team discovered that overexpressing a specific gene found in the lignin biosynthesis cluster of the rice plant increased the beneficial bacteria in the plant microbiome. The results showed that the engineered plants are more resistant to bacterial blight in rice crops, a common cause of yield losses in Asian countries.

"For the first time, we've been able to change the makeup of a plant's microbiome in a targeted way, boosting the numbers of beneficial bacteria that can protect the plant from other harmful bacteria," said Dr. Tomislav Cernava, a co-author of the paper and an Associate Professor at the University of Southampton. Currently, the researchers are exploring the presence of other beneficial microbes to improve plant health further.

For more information, read the article from the University of Southampton.

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