From FCC Express By Richard Kamchen
A recently identified beneficial bacteria shows promise in promoting crop growth and resisting pathogens.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada plant protection scientist Ze-Chun Yuan identified several bacterial strains with potential beneficial applications for plants.
“These bacteria can fix nitrogen for crops (thereby reducing fertilizer cost), produce antimicrobial chemicals to kill pathogens (reducing the chemical pesticides in agriculture), and break down lignin, the major component of biomass, and convert biomass – crop residues and forestry waste – into valuable products,” Yuan says. “We are working towards promoting sustainable agriculture and ecosystems.”
Paenibacillus polymyxa CR1, originally isolated from degrading corn tissues, was the first bacterial genome to undergo complete genome sequencing, the process that allows for bacteria’s genetic functions to be studied for further understanding beneficial traits.
This beneficial bacterium can enhance crop growth by producing naturally occurring plant growth hormones, AAFC says. Larger root systems could boost nutrient absorption and thereby promote faster plant growth.
It can also produce microbial chemicals to increase a plant’s resistance to fungal and bacterial pathogens.
Yuan says there are current agriculture practices which make heavy use of chemical pesticides. Using bacteria to kill pathogens would be a more environmentally-friendly practice, he says.
Paenibacillus polymyxa CR1 may also produce chemicals to help plants better resist insects, which is currently under investigation, AAFC says.
“This bacterium can also produce antimicrobial chemicals that can kill microbial pathogens, thereby protecting the crop,” Yuan says. “It could in the future be used to develop natural pesticides in disease prevention or treatment in agriculture.”
The bacteria have demonstrated good overall promotion activity features for several crops, with tests done in corn, soybeans, peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes trials. The lab is still looking into wheat and other crops.
Two companies have shown interest in the research. Engage Agro Corporation in Guelph, Ont., is looking for bacteria activity to promote crop health and growth, and LegnoChem, based in northern Ontario, is interested in converting lignin and biomass into useful, high value bioproducts.