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Microbes team up to boost plants' stress tolerance
Date:2/17/2013

f Costa Rica and in the hot, geothermal ground in Yellowstone National Park, viruses and fungi work together with plants to confer temperature hardiness, said Roossinck. Researchers found that fungi and a type of grass -- tropical panic grass -- found in Yellowstone National Park grow together in temperatures above 125 degrees Fahrenheit. If the plant and fungus are separated, however, both die in the same heat levels.

Because viruses are often present in plant fungi, Roossinck wondered if viruses played a role in the reaction.

"I noticed that all of the samples from the geothermal soils had a virus, so it seemed worth it to take a deeper look," said Roossinck.

The researchers found that there was no heat tolerance without the virus. Once the researchers cured the fungus of the virus, the plant was unable to withstand the heat. When the virus was reintroduced, the plant regained heat tolerance.

"A virus is absolutely required for thermal tolerance," said Roossinck. "If you cure the fungus of the virus, you no longer have the thermal tolerance."

While researchers do not entirely understand the role of viruses in helping plants withstand extreme conditions, Roossinck said that future research may help the agricultural industry naturally develop hardier plants, rather than rely on chemical solutions that threaten the environment.

"The question is, can we restore the natural level of microbes in plants and grow them better and more tolerant of environmental stress like heat and drought, or pathogens?" Roossinck said. "This may lead to more natural methods of creating crops that are more heat, drought and stress tolerant."


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Contact: Matthew Swayne
mls29@psu.edu
814-865-9481
Penn State
Source:Eurekalert

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