Discovering Soil Bacteria That Fight Plant Fungi

Jim Crocker
5th April, 2024

Discovering Soil Bacteria That Fight Plant Fungi

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • In South Korea, a soil bacterium, S. collinus Inha504, was found to have strong antifungal properties
  • This bacterium protected red pepper, strawberry, and tomato plants from fungal infections in tests
  • Researchers identified a gene cluster in the bacterium that produces a compound known for disease control
In the ongoing battle against plant diseases, scientists are constantly on the lookout for new and effective ways to protect our crops. A recent study from Inha University[1] has made a significant contribution in this area, uncovering a soil microorganism with powerful antifungal properties that could be harnessed to safeguard agricultural produce. The problem at hand is the damage caused by fungal pathogens to crops worldwide. These pathogens can lead to devastating losses in agriculture, affecting both the economy and food security. A previous survey[2] highlighted the top ten fungal plant pathogens, including the notorious Fusarium oxysporum, which is known for attacking a wide range of important crops. Finding new methods to control such pathogens is crucial for improving crop yields and ensuring stable food supplies. The Inha University study focused on Streptomyces, a genus of soil-dwelling bacteria known for their role in natural antibiotic production. Researchers set out to discover new Streptomyces strains with the ability to fight off plant pathogens. They screened around 2,400 culture extracts from soil samples collected in organic green tea fields in South Korea. Their efforts paid off when they identified a strain named S. collinus Inha504, which exhibited strong antifungal activities against several harmful fungi, including F. oxysporum and Aspergillus niger. The team didn't stop at merely identifying this strain's antifungal potential; they also tested its effectiveness in real-world conditions. In pot experiments, S. collinus Inha504 was found to protect red pepper, strawberry, and tomato plants from infection by F. oxysporum. This is a significant finding, as it suggests that the strain could be developed into a practical solution for farmers dealing with fungal diseases. To understand how S. collinus Inha504 works, the researchers delved into its genome, a complete set of its genetic material. They discovered a biosynthetic gene cluster (BGC) responsible for producing a compound similar to lucensomycin (LCM), a substance already known for its role in controlling crop diseases. This genetic insight is valuable because it helps explain the strain's antifungal mechanism and could assist in the development of new fungicides. The significance of this discovery is underscored by previous research[3], which showed that the introduction of beneficial microbes into the soil could suppress soil-borne diseases like Fusarium root rot in soybeans. The study by Inha University builds on this concept, offering a potential new microbial ally that could be added to the soil to protect crops. However, before this Streptomyces strain can be used in agriculture, it must overcome the hurdles outlined in another study[3]. This includes proving its efficacy in diverse environmental conditions and scaling up production to meet agricultural demands. The success of microbial products on the market today often comes down to their consistent performance and the ability to be produced on a large scale while maintaining quality. In conclusion, the Inha University study presents a promising avenue for plant disease control through the use of a soil microorganism with natural antifungal properties. By isolating S. collinus Inha504 and identifying its genetic basis for antifungal activity, researchers have laid the groundwork for potentially developing a new, eco-friendly fungicide. This work not only contributes to our understanding of microbial-based disease control but also offers hope for a future where sustainable agricultural practices can keep pace with the demands of a growing population.



Main Study

1) Isolation of Streptomyces inhibiting multiple-phytopathogenic fungi and characterization of lucensomycin biosynthetic gene cluster.

Published 2nd April, 2024

Related Studies

2) The Top 10 fungal pathogens in molecular plant pathology.

3) From the Lab to the Farm: An Industrial Perspective of Plant Beneficial Microorganisms.

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