Researchers Differentiate Between Microbial Good and Evil

Microscope image of Burkholderia silvatlantica sp. PVA5 (one of the strains analyzed in this study) forming a biofilm on the root of a honey locust plant (Gleditsia triacanthos). The red is the outline of the plant cells and the green is the bacteria. (Source: UCLA/Michelle R. Lum)To safely use bacteria in agriculture to help fertilize crops, it is vital to understand the difference between harmful and healthy strains. The bacterial genus Burkholderia, for example, includes dangerous disease-causing pathogens— one species has even been listed as a potential bioterrorist agent— but also many species that are safe and important for plant development.

Can the microbial good and evil be told apart? Yes, UCLA life scientists and an international team of researchers report in the online journal PLOS ONE.

“We have shown that a certain group of Burkholderia, which have just been discovered in the last 12 years as plant-growth promoting bacteria, are not pathogenic,” said the study’s senior author, Ann Hirsch, a professor of molecular, cell, and developmental biology in the UCLA College of Letters and Science. “This opens up the possibility of using these particular species for promoting plant growth through the process of nitrogen fixation, particularly in areas of climate change. This will have a major impact, especially on people in the developing world in producing protein-rich crops.”

Font: Bioscience Technology