Mendocino County
University of California
Mendocino County

ANR Blogs

Microbes associated with plant roots could be a key to helping plants survive drought

As sorghum plants cope with drought conditions, the plants' roots and adjoining microbial communities are communicating in a chemical language that appears to improve the plants' chances under water stress.

“It's amazing,” said Peggy Lemaux, UC Cooperative Extension specialist. “We know there are lots of microbes in the soil and, for the most part, ones in the surrounding soil stayed the same under drought conditions. We only saw changes in those microbes closely associated with the roots.”

The role of drought in restructuring the root microbiome was the first published discovery to come out of a sweeping drought research project underway since 2015 in the fields at UC Kearney Research and Extension Center in Parlier. The five-year study, funded with a $12.3 million grant from the Department of Energy, aims to tease out the genetics of drought tolerance in sorghum and its associated microbes. Using sorghum as a model, scientists hope the research will help them understand and improve drought tolerance in other crops as well. 

Sorghum growing in research plots at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center. (Photo: Peggy Lemaux)

The new research results from the lab of USDA's Devin Coleman-Derr at UC Berkeley, published April 16, 2018, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, document the fate of microbes associated with sorghum roots under three distinct irrigation regimens. Because the San Joaquin Valley generally sees no rain during the growing season, it is the ideal place to mimic drought conditions by withholding irrigation water.

All plots received a pre-plant irrigation to initiate growth. In the control plots, sorghum was irrigated normally, with weekly watering through the season. In the plot simulating pre-flowering drought stress, the plants received no additional water until flowering, about halfway through the season. The third treatment was watered normally until it flowered, and then water was cut off for the rest of the season.

Beginning when the plants emerged, the scientists collected samples from each plot on the same day and time each week for 17 weeks. In a mini, in-field laboratory, roots, rhizosphere (zone surrounding the root), leaves and soil samples from 10 plants in each plot were immediately frozen and transported to Berkeley, where they were disseminated to collaborators, who investigated the plant and microbial responses at the molecular level.

“When a sorghum plant is subjected to drought, it starts sloughing off metabolites, nutrients and amino acids from the roots. The compounds appear to communicate to the neighboring microbial community that the plant is under stress,” Lemaux said. “That selects out a certain population of microbes. Certain types of microbes increase, others go away. When you add water back, the microbial community returns to its pre-drought population in just a few days.”

The researchers cultured two specific microbes that were enriched in the rootzone under drought conditions. They coated sorghum seeds with the microbes and planted them under drought conditions in a growth chamber. This treatment encouraged the plant to grow more roots.

“The microbes appear to improve plant growth during drought,” Lemaux said. “Those microbes appear to be helping plants survive drought. We didn't know that was happening before we got these results.”

Lemaux said the research might lead to future field use of the research breakthrough.

“A lot of companies are interested in the microbiome,” she said. “Some are already selling microbes to coat seeds.”

Posted on Wednesday, April 25, 2018 at 8:44 AM

New Weed Science faculty member

Mohsen Mesgaran

I am Mohsen Mesgaran, a new weed faculty with the Department of Plant Sciences based at UC Davis (Robbins Hall).  I did my PhD in Weed Science at The University of Tehran, Iran, in 2011, focusing on the development of eco-physiological models for...

Posted on Tuesday, April 24, 2018 at 10:34 AM

Herbicide limits plantings following cilantro

California Ag Today

From the California Ag Today website on March 21, 2018 https://californiaagtoday.com/herbicide-limits-plantings-cilantro/   Caparol Label Change Sought To Reduce Plant-Back Restrictions Following Cilantro By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor, California...

Posted on Monday, April 23, 2018 at 2:34 PM

Turning integrated pest management ideas into action

Pests have always been a bane of human existence. Modern society has developed effective pest management, “but there is no kind and gentle way to kill things,” said Brian Leahy, the director of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, in remarks at the April 2018 IPM Summit.

The ever increasing incidence of invasive pests and the concerns about how to manage them will be a continuing challenge. Leahy said society is on a pest treadmill; and the best way to address it is with integrated pest management (IPM). 

The concept of integrated pest management emerged 60 years ago when scientists recognized that imposing a harsh chemical on a natural system threw it off kilter, often causing unexpected, usually negative consequences. They realized that combining an array of pest control methods – such as careful supervision of insect levels, promotion of beneficial insects, and using less harsh products – would be more effective, safer for families and farmworkers, and kinder to the environment in the long run.

And yet, pesticides are still widely used in agricultural, horticultural and structural systems.

“We need to make IPM more robust,” said Pete Goodell, UC IPM advisor emeritus who spent 36 years as an IPM researcher, leader and teacher. “We need to make IPM easier to adopt.”

Director of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, Brian Leahy, listens as an IPM Summit participant shares ideas.

The meeting in Davis brought together nearly 200 people engaged in the science, business and regulation of pest management. They were assembled to address the tensions around pesticides and their alternatives, and usher in a new generation of researchers and practitioners to maintain and expand on six decades of progress in integrated pest management.

The IPM Summit is the final chapter of a collaborative effort titled “The Pests, Pesticides & IPM Project,” which was funded by DPR to enhance dialog about pest management. The project leader is Lori Berger, UC IPM academic coordinator.

“This project addresses the challenges pests pose to society,” Berger said. “We want to increase adoption of IPM practices on farms, and also in schools, homes, museums and golf courses. We're all in this together.”

UC IPM academic coordinator Lori Berger introduces UC ANR vice provost Mark Bell at the IPM Summit.

One example of urban IPM efforts was presented by the IPM Summit keynote speaker Kelly Middleton, director of community affairs for the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District. She outlined the substantial public health concerns associated with pest control in California's largest urban area. A primary target is mosquitos.

“In the early 1900s, vector control started with concerns about malaria and mosquito populations,” Middleton said.

Over decades, the vector control district worked behind the scenes to keep mosquito populations in check. But in recent years, new species of mosquitos capable of spreading Zika, West Nile encephalitis, chikungunya and yellow fever have made their way to LA, intensifying concerns.

A key IPM tool in Los Angeles is minimizing standing water where mosquitos can breed. With year-round water flow irrigating vast landscapes and concrete drainages that inhibit infiltration, the vector district is faced with mosquito breeding grounds created by “urban drool,” Middleton said.

Trash rife with nutrients – such as discarded food and plant materials – are perfect nourishment for immature mosquitos, a condition referred to as “urban gruel.”

Higher temperatures predicted because of climate change only threaten to exacerbate the problem.

“A warming world is a sicker world,” Middleton said.

An effective IPM approach to mosquitos is short-circuiting their reproduction opportunities by enlisting residents to maintain swimming pools, drain any receptacles that can capture rainwater or irrigation, and be vigilant about basins containing water in their environments.

These efforts are emblematic of the societal collaboration that can tackle pest problems without pesticides.

In his IPM Summit presentation, Goodell called for public sector investment in basic research, applied research, extension and education to find IPM solutions and encourage implementation. He appealed for IPM outreach to include community organizations, home owners associations and other non-traditional partners. He suggested agriculture take advantage of farmworkers' presence in the field for early pest detection.

“Technical pest management skills are critical, but it's connections with people that are key to bringing about change,” Goodell said.

 

Posted on Monday, April 23, 2018 at 9:19 AM

Mural honoring late UCCE advisor Steve Orloff approved by board of supervisors

51931 original

From the UC Cooperative Extension website: http://ucanr.edu/?blogpost=26965&blogasset=96361  Written by Jeannette Warnert   The Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors has approved an artist's rendering of a mural that honors UC...

Posted on Friday, April 20, 2018 at 8:21 PM

Next 5 stories | Last story

 
E-mail
 
Webmaster Email: jtwilli@ucanr.edu