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Corn-colonizing fungus may help the crop repel disease, grow larger


by Katie Bohn, Pennsylvania State University
A fungus that can colonize, or grow within, corn plants doesn't just leave the plant unharmed—it also can help the plant stave off harmful bugs and other fungi, according to a new study by Penn State researchers.

In the study, the College of Agricultural Sciences researchers studied the effects of the fungus Metarhizium robertsii on corn. They found that when the fungus colonized corn, the plants were less vulnerable to the effects of another fungus, C. heterostrophus, which causes the disease southern corn leaf blight.

They also found that corn plants grown from seeds treated with M. robertsii grew to be taller and heavier than plants grown from untreated seeds.

Mary Barbercheck, professor of entomology, said the findings—recently published in PLOS One—suggest that M. robertsii could be an important tool in growing a crop and helping it stave off disease, especially for organic growers.

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