Fungus and Nanoparticles Team Up to Protect Barley from Disease

David Palenski
19th February, 2024

Fungus and Nanoparticles Team Up to Protect Barley from Disease

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Imagine a battlefield, but instead of soldiers, we have resilient barley plants and a relentless foe, the spot blotch disease. This foe, caused by a fungus named Bipolaris sorokiniana, wreaks havoc across fields, diminishing the green glory of barley by spotting and blotching its leaves, threatening the yield that sustains industries and stomachs alike. But the tide may be turning, with science unleashing mini but mighty allies in the form of Trichoderma fungi and nanotechnology. At the frontline are the scientists at the Botany and Microbiology Department of Zagazig University, who have been experimenting with nature's own tools to take on this agricultural challenge. Two key players have emerged victorious in their studies: a friendly fungus known as Trichoderma. cf. asperellum and a brigade of titanium dioxide nanoparticles (TiO2 NPs), synthetically fashioned from the Aloe vera plant's aqueous leaf extract. The scientists delicately brewed the nanoparticle warriors using TiCl4 salt that, with a bit of Aloe vera magic, transformed into TiO2 NPs. Under the watchful eyes of tools like the Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) and the Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM), it was confirmed these particles were not just any random assembly of atoms, but anatase-crystalline soldiers, between 10 and 25 nanometers in size. So tiny, but so potent. Meanwhile, our friendly fungus ally, T. cf. asperellum, identified by its morphological traits and the RNA at its core, showed it was not to be trifled with. It displayed a remarkable ability to stave off the advances of B. sorokiniana, with an antagonistic activity of 57.07% – think of it as a natural fungus shield around the barley. The scientists discovered that when this fungus was five days young, its effect was most potent. When these two forces combined and descended upon fields riddled with the spot blotch menace, something remarkable happened. Barley plants treated with either the protective fungus or the nano-sized shields flourished! No longer were the leaves marred by the disease; instead, they revealed a robustness and resilience that had been absent before. Moreover, the areas around the barley rendered inhospitable to our fungal foe grew ever wider as the concentration of TiO2 NPs increased. Yet, this wasn’t merely a superficial victory. The plants themselves began to change from the inside out. The scientists delved into the physiological and biochemical heart of the barley and found that both T. cf. asperellum and TiO2 NPs fortified the plant's tolerance. The adverse effects of the spot blotch fungus were retreating. In the end, the evidence was irrefutable. The barley, once vulnerable to B. sorokiniana's relentless onslaught, now stood strong with higher chlorophyll content – a sign of splendid health. T. cf. asperellum and TiO2 NPs weren’t just a barrier; they were emissaries that stirred the plants' innate defense systems into action. The von Trapps once sang about the hills being alive with the sound of music, but now, thanks to these findings, the barley fields could very well be alive with the sound of vitality. The use of friendly fungi and nanoparticles as eco-friendly bodyguards offered a brighter future not only for the countless barley grains that fill our silos but also for the hands that sow and reap them. Through enhancing plant quality and productivity, science reminds us, the smallest entities can usher in the mightiest changes, turning fields of battle into fields of harmony.

BiotechPlant ScienceAgriculture


Main Study

1) Trichoderma cf. asperellum and plant-based titanium dioxide nanoparticles initiate morphological and biochemical modifications in Hordeum vulgare L. against Bipolaris sorokiniana.

Published 17th February, 2024

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