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Genome study of beneficial microbe may help boost plant health

In a study expected to greatly benefit crop plants, scientists have deciphered the genome of a root- and seed-dwelling bacterium that protects plants from diseases.

The research provides clues to better explain how the helpful microbe, Pseudomonas fluorescens Pf-5, naturally safeguards roots and seeds from infection by harmful microbes that cause plant diseases. The genome paper will be published in Nature Biotechnology and was scheduled to be posted online on June 26.

"The genome sequence has helped us identify new chemical pathways that the microbe apparently uses to create what are known as 'secondary metabolites' ?possibly including new antibiotic compounds," says Ian Paulsen. He led the sequencing at The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR), Rockville, Md., and is the study's first author.

The use of naturally-occurring, beneficial microbes such as P. fluorescens to control plant pathogens is called "biological control." That method is gaining momentum as a way to grow healthy plants without using synthetic fungicides. In all, about three dozen beneficial microbes are currently used as an environmentally-friendly way to fight plant diseases.

Joyce E. Loper, senior author of the genome paper and an expert on P. fluorescens Pf-5, predicts that the new genomic data will help scientists more quickly develop new ways to boost the effectiveness of beneficial microbes in fighting plant diseases.

"This genomic sequence reveals previously unknown traits of P. fluorescens that increase its potential for biological control," says Loper. She is a plant pathologist with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and is based at Oregon State University, Corvallis. The P. fluorescens genome was sequenced at TIGR and analyzed by scientists there and at ARS and Oregon State University, with contributions by researchers at Rutgers, Washington State University and the University of Arizona. The project was funded by a grant from the USDA's
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Source:TIGR


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