Fungi Manages Plant Disease

June 10, 2005 - 12:09

The use of endophytes, non-harmful fungi, bacteria or viruses that naturally grow inside plants, is an emerging tool for managing plant diseases, said plant pathologists with The American Phytopathological Society (APS).

"Endophytes appear to have co-evolved with their plant hosts where the association can be mutually beneficial to both," said Paul Backman, professor of plant pathology, biological control and biosecurity, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa. "Recent research indicates that some of these benefits may be to suppress plant diseases and other stresses."

Plant pathologists have found that introducing non-harmful endophytes to a plant can cause it to become more resistant to plant diseases that may harm or kill the plant. When an endophyte is introduced into a plant, the plant reacts as if a disease is infecting it and stimulates its natural defense system. As a result, the plant protects itself against pathogens that may cause it actual harm. "This method could create long-term protection against really devastating plant diseases," Backman said.

More on this emerging research area will be addressed during the Endophytes: An Emerging Tool for Biological Control symposium at the APS Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas, July 30-Aug. 3, 2005. The symposium will be held Monday, August 1, 1-5 p.m. at the Austin Convention Center. A news conference on emerging plant diseases will be held at the annual meeting on Monday, August 1.

The American Phytopathological Society (APS) is a non-profit, professional scientific organization. The research of the organization’s 5,000 worldwide members advances the understanding of the science of plant pathology and its application to plant health.

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