Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

Microbial Approach to Better Crops

By examining the microbial community living near the roots of rice plants, the University of Delaware's Harsh Bais is searching for bacteria that may prevent or limit the amount of arsenic, a soil contaminant common in India and other parts of Asia, the plants take up, the New York Times reports.

Bais, the Times says, has homed in on one species — Pantoea agglomerans — that appears to limit the amount of arsenic in the plant stem to one-eighth its usual level.

"Research on the plant microbiome is very hot because everyone is trying to find things that can increase growth and yield," Bais adds.

Others are exploring the use of certain bacteria as plant probiotics to encourage a better fruit yield, limit the need of fertilizer, and withstand disease and pests. And Venkatesan Sundaresan's lab at the University of California, Davis, is undertaking a survey of the rice microbiome and is working with Bais by providing soil samples for isolation of its component microbes for testing.

However, the Times notes that though P. agglomerans appears to keep arsenic out of the plant stem, how it affects the rice grain and whether it could compete and survive in the presence of other soil microbes isn't yet known, though the researchers hope to find out soon.

The Scan

Machine Learning Helps ID Molecular Mechanisms of Pancreatic Islet Beta Cell Subtypes in Type 2 Diabetes

The approach helps overcome limitations of previous studies that had investigated the molecular mechanisms of pancreatic islet beta cells, the authors write in their Nature Genetics paper.

Culture-Based Methods, Shotgun Sequencing Reveal Transmission of Bifidobacterium Strains From Mothers to Infants

In a Nature Communications study, culture-based approaches along with shotgun sequencing give a better picture of the microbial strains transmitted from mothers to infants.

Microbial Communities Can Help Trees Adapt to Changing Climates

Tree seedlings that were inoculated with microbes from dry, warm, or cold sites could better survive drought, heat, and cold stress, according to a study in Science.

A Combination of Genetics and Environment Causes Cleft Lip

In a study published in Nature Communications, researchers investigate what combination of genetic and environmental factors come into play to cause cleft lip/palate.