A NEWLY DISCOVERED MICROBIAL SYMBIOSIS PROTECTS IMPORTANT CROP PLANTS AGAINST SEVERE DROUGHT

picture of Ochana Otto presenting his/her poster: A NEWLY DISCOVERED MICROBIAL SYMBIOSIS PROTECTS IMPORTANT CROP PLANTS AGAINST SEVERE DROUGHT

Ochana Otto , Dr. A. Elizabeth Arnold, Dr. Margaret Wilch

A NEWLY DISCOVERED MICROBIAL SYMBIOSIS PROTECTS IMPORTANT CROP PLANTS AGAINST SEVERE DROUGHT

Rapid and irreversible desertification of formerly productive croplands is one of the most important impacts of global climate change. An innovative strategy is needed to help plants cope with rapid climate shifts. One approach is to use newly discovered symbionts, which confer new traits on hosts without the slow process of plant breeding or genetic manipulation. In a previous experiment I demonstrated that the endophytic fungus Pestalotiopsis neglecta and endohyphal bacterium Luteibacter enhanced growth of peas under drought. Here I address three new questions: Can this drought resistance be transferred to a plant of global importance (corn)? Can other endophytes with related bacteria enhance drought tolerance? Does enhancement vary depending on the origin of the endophyte in arid vs. mesic environments? I evaluated growth of corn seedlings under drought and non-drought conditions. Culture extracts from endophytes with endohyphal bacteria (EB+) significantly enhanced fresh weight of corn under drought compared to EB- treatment and controls (water and growth medium). Other EB combinations were beneficial, enhancing water retention in roots and shoots. Beneficial symbioses were found in plants from dry and mesic environments. Results suggest a new and useful application of endophytic fungi and endohyphal bacteria in improving crop growth in arid lands.

Conference Home | List of Abstracts | Photo Gallery