Resident bacteria help protect plants from infections

Plants get sick just like people do. So pesticides were developed to protect plants from diseases. It turns out, nature has it's own way of helping plants stay healthy.

The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences commissioned a large group of researchers to find micro-organisms that live inside roots of plants to help them in times of attack. The goal was to find more sustainable means of crop production using less pesticides. So the team started analyzing DNA sequences of micro-organisms inside of the plant roots.

What they discovered was a treasure trove of micro-organisms hetherto unknown. 700 unknown gene clusters that produce unique substances. Only 12 of these are recorded in worldwide databases.

When a plant is under attack, it summons an army of micro-organisms that start developing substances that fight those pathogens. If the micro-organisms are there, they boost plant's growth and tolerance to stress. One such substance is Chitinases, enzymes that help break down the cells walls of attacking fungus.

Injections of Chitinases enzymes into plant roots repeatedly boosted plant's growth and health.