Soil Biology

Plant probiotics to the rescue

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Science  12 Feb 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6274, pp. 677
DOI: 10.1126/science.351.6274.677-a

Soil-dwelling bacteria can protect strawberry plants from fungal wilt

PHOTO: © OLEKSANDR SHEVCHENKO/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

Some soils protect crops against their microbial attackers without any pesticides or fungicides. Cha et al. investigated the microbial and biochemical basis of this effect in a patch of soil that excluded fungal wilt on strawberry plants, despite 15 years of monoculture. Mixing in the protective soil transferred this suppressive effect into neighboring disease-ridden soils, which gained increasingly better disease-control capacity with successive growing cycles. A strain of Streptomyces bacteria, a group renowned for producing antibiotics, emerged as the chief agent that suppressed the pathogenic fungi. The Streptomyces produced an interesting large heat-stable thiopeptide antibiotic with antifungal properties. Thus, much like the development of probiotics to combat gut diseases, probiotics for soil should be feasible.

ISME J. 10, 119 (2016)

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