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How soil microbes help plants resist disease


by Olga Kuchment, Texas A&M University
Plants can't self-isolate during a disease outbreak, but they can get help from a friend—beneficial soil microbes help plants ward off a wide range of diseases. Now, Texas A&M AgriLife scientists have uncovered a major part of the process in which beneficial fungi help corn plants defend against pathogens.

The results appeared in The Plant Cell in January. Leading the study was Michael Kolomiets, Ph.D., professor of plant pathology and microbiology at Texas A&M University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Funding for the study was provided by the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture. Overall, the results shed light on a mysterious aspect of plant immunity and enable future research toward more productive cereal crops.

Careful plant selection and breeding have vastly improved crops all over the world, leading to higher yields, hardiness and disease resistance. But these days, the productivity of crops can't be improved as much by genetic selection alone, Kolomiets said.

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