An international team of plant genetic engineering scientists, led by the University of Southampton in Britain, was able to engineer the microbiome in plants for the first time, by activating a gene that increases the production of a vital compound that positively affects the composition of beneficial microbial bacteria in the plant and improves their quality.
Results showed the study An applied study published in the journal Nature Communications showed that the microbiome that was designed increased the resistance of rice to bacterial spot disease and significantly reduced the need for environmentally damaging pesticides, according to For the statement Issued by the study.
The importance of the plant microbiome
The plant microbiome is the collection of microbes living on leaves and other plant organs, including bacteria, fungi, viruses, and archaea.
The plant microbiome is found in various parts of the plant, including roots, leaves, and stems, and contributes to the plant’s health and daily functioning. It is estimated that the surface of an average-sized plant leaf contains 10 million microbes, a population group numerically similar to the population of major cities.
The plant microbiome plays an important role in plant health and growth, and it also enables scientists to develop new methods to improve agriculture and preserve the environment, through a better understanding of how the plant microbiome works, as the microorganisms in the plant microbiome interact with each other and with the plant in different ways, and can These reactions produce substances beneficial to the plant, such as antimicrobials and growth-stimulating chemicals.
Examples of plant microbiome interactions include; Bacteria found in plant roots are able to fix nitrogen, an essential nutrient for plants. Some fungi also help improve plants' absorption of water and minerals from the soil, and some bacteria produce antimicrobial substances that help protect plants from diseases.
Scientists are also investigating the role of the plant microbiome in human health, and some studies have shown that the plant microbiome can affect the health of the digestive and immune systems in humans.
Scientists are also studying the impact of climate change on it, and some studies have shown that climate change can change the composition of the plant microbiome, which may affect plant health.
Changing the composition of the microbiome in plants
Over the past decade, scientists have conducted extensive research on plant microbes to understand how they affect plants and their susceptibility to diseases. For example, scientists are looking for ways to improve the plant microbiome to influence plant health.
Research on microbes includes developing methods to inoculate plants with beneficial bacteria and selecting plant varieties that contain a strong plant microbiome, such as inoculating plants with beneficial bacteria. Some studies have shown that vaccination can increase plant resistance to disease and improve its growth.
Regarding the study conducted by researchers on the plant microbiome to protect crops from diseases, Dr. Tomislav Cernava, associate professor at the University of Southampton and co-author of this study, says, “For the first time, we were able to change the composition of the plant’s microbiome in a systematic way, which led to an increase in the numbers of beneficial bacteria that can Protecting the plant from other harmful bacteria.
Cernava added: “This new discovery could reduce reliance on environmentally harmful pesticides, as we have achieved this in rice crops, but the framework we have created can be applied to other plants and open up other opportunities to improve their microbiome. For example, microbes that increase Providing nutrients to crops can reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers.”
In their experiment on rice, the international research team discovered that a specific gene located in the lignin biosynthesis group in the rice plant is involved in shaping its microbiome.
The experimentation and testing process carried out on rice showed the researchers that when this gene was disabled, there was a decrease in the number of some beneficial bacteria, which confirms their importance in forming the microbiome community.
The researchers then reversed the experiment, over-editing the genetic change so that it produced more than one specific type of metabolite (a small molecule produced by the host plant during metabolic processes), thus increasing the proportion of beneficial bacteria in the plant microbiome.
Test results on rice
On the other hand, the results of tests on rice crops showed that when these genetically engineered plants are exposed to a bacteria called Xanthamsonase ureaza – which is a type of common bacteria that infects rice crops and is considered a pathogenic agent for rice, as it infects the crops with what is known as bacterial blight in rice crops – the crops will be stronger. And more resistant to bacteria.
Bacterial blight is common in Asia and can lead to significant rice yield loss, and is usually controlled by spreading environmentally polluting pesticides, so producing a crop with a protective microbiome can help enhance food security and help the environment.
In addition, one of the most prominent results of this study is the discovery of the presence of other beneficial microbes to unlock various plant health benefits in the future.