A significant part of the food crop is destroyed yearly due to attack by insects, fungi, bacteria, and nematodes. Currently the major strategies to fight/control plant pathogens are chemical pesticides or resistant plant cultivars. However, these strategies present limitations; (i) agrochemicals do not prevent/control all diseases, and toxic residues can accumulate in the soil and food chain and (ii) resistance of genetically resistant cultivars is often overcome by the pathogen within a few years. In addition agriculture uses considerable amounts of chemical fertilizers, which will need to be urgently reduced in the future.
Biopesticides and biofertilizers derived from natural materials such as bacteria is still considered a niche sector in the overall global pesticide and agro-fertilizer market. Bacteria can act as biopesticides and control plant pathogens via the production of antimicrobial compounds, induction of resistance in plants and by niche exclusion via the monopolization of essential nutrients. In addition, bacteria can also act as biofertilizers inducing plant growth promotion (PGP). The mechanisms involved in this process include nitrogen fixation, phosphate and mineral solubilization, and the production of macromolecule degrading enzymes, phytohormones and volatile growth stimulants. It is expected that the share of the market of bio-/control/fertilizers will increase at an annual average growth rate of approximately 10% over the next three years. Consequently, bacteria are increasingly commercially applied in agriculture to enhance yield of crops and vegetables in order to reduce use of harmful agrochemicals (e.g. chemical fertilizers and pesticides).
One of the demands in the future will therefore be the identification of bacterial strains tailored for a specific need as biopesticides and/or biofertilizers in the growth of crops and vegetables; we believe that the choice of bacterial strain is of pivotal importance. In the Bacteriology Group we focus on the identification and characterization of endophtyic bacterial strains; these bacteria are harmless and colonize intercellular spaces of the plant tissue often outcompeting pathogenic organisms as well as increasing plant growth.
1. Beneficial endophytes are already available!
Strains4Plants in the Bacteriology Group already has in place a set of several identified and well characterized plant endophytes for endophytism/PGP phenotypes/biocontrol which have been carefully selected from an initial pool of over 1300 different endophytic isolates from roots, stems and leaves of rice grown in Italy. In addition we are in the process of identifying endophytes from rice grown in different parts of the world as we believe that strain-locality might be important in the different growing areas of the world. Many of these bacterial strains are also excellent antagonists to several important rice diseases like panicle blight (Burkholderia glumae), bacterial blight (Xanthomonas oryzae), foot rot (Dickeya zeae) and sheath rot (Pseudomonas fuscovaginae) as well as other pathogens (eg. E. carotovora, Xanthomonas spp., P. syringae pv. actinidiae, R. solanacerum). If you are interested in acquiring any of our endophytic strains, contact us and we will provide you with detailed information on the strains and the studies we have conducted. Several of our strains are now ready for field trails and registration for use as biocontrol and/or biofertilizers.
2. Do you need to identify and characterize your local beneficial plant associated bacterial isolates?
Strains4Plants upon an agreement is also ready to work with/for you on the isolation and characterization of your local plant-associated bacteria. In addition, in vitro plant-growth-promoting related activities (eg. nitrogen fixation, phosphate solubilization, phytohromone production, acc deaminase activity, etc) as well as biocontrol activity towards a specific pathogen(s) can be conducted. Contact us if you wish to fund a project on the isolation and extensive characterization of your local beneficial plant associated bacteria.
3. We can screen our beneficial plant-associated bacterial culture collection on a specific pathogen!
Should you be interested in having a harmless/beneficial plant associated bacteria which antagonizes growth or kills your specific plant pathogen, we are available for screening our culture collection for this activity. Should we find a suitable candidate(s) we can then provide it to you.
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