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Can Viruses and Fungi Help Boost Crop Yields?

March 25th, 2013 | Posted by XiteBio in Uncategorized

petri plate containing microbesFarmers never want to hear that their crops have been infected with a virus or fungus, but it may not be long before that attitude begins to change. Scientists are discovering that some viruses have the ability to help infected plants better tolerate different stresses. Dr. Marilyn Roossinck is a professor at Penn State University and recently reported on some of these discoveries. They have found examples of viruses that are able to help plants tolerate drought. They have found others that help plants better tolerate cold temperatures.

At Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, U.S., there is a type of grass that grows in hot, geothermal ground that reaches temperatures above 125°F (52°C) . The grass is infected with a particular fungus, which in turn is infected with a specific virus. If the fungus is removed from the grass, neither the grass nor fungus can survive the heat. If the fungus is still there, but the virus is cured, both the fungus and grass will die. If the plant is infected with both the fungus and virus, everything is able to survive.

As the demand for food continues to increase globally, it becomes more important to find ways to successfully grow crops in harsher environments. Discovering relationships like these is just one more way to help farmers improve their output in an environmentally safe way.

Image source: XiteBio Technologies Inc.

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