Myxobacteria as Biocontrol Agents of Agricultural Plant Pathogens

Finley, Cameron
Myxobacteria are soil microbes that display swarming motility and predate on other microbes. Predation by myxobacteria involves utilization of antibiotics and hydrolytic enzymes against prey species. The purpose of this research is to investigate whether predatory myxobacteria can be exploited to manage plant pathogens of agriculturally important crops such as sugar beets, and dry beans. We hypothesize that plant seeds or soils treated with myxobacteria might display reduced susceptibility to disease caused by microbial pathogens. In the laboratory various assays have been employed to look at antagonistic interactions between a panel of myxobacterial species against targeted fungal and bacterial plant pathogens. In preliminary studies we find that microbial pathogens can be inhibited to different degrees. Inhibition appears to involve both diffusible factors as well as cell contact-dependent mechanisms. Sugar beets have been used as plant disease models to test whether select myxobacteria can suppress diseases caused by microbial pathogens. Initial testing has been conducted with seedlings on agar petri dishes. Considering that between 7 to 20 percent of crop yields can be lost per year due to microbial pathogens, this research may have important implications for agricultural industry.
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