University of Florida researchers hope to discover how microbes may benefit citrus trees in their natural fight against diseases. Nian Wang, professor of microbiology and cell science and Chris Oswalt, UF/IFAS Extension citrus agent for Polk and Hillsborough counties, will identify the beneficial traits of microbes within plants that have the potential to specifically impact citrus pathogens.
The project is funded through a $749,990 grant from the US Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
“A better understanding of the plant microbiome and innovative approaches in application are required to engineer the plant microbiome for successful disease control,” Wang, who has extensive experience in citrus microbiome research, told blogs.ifas.ufl.edu. “This grant will help us gather important information that moves us closer to that goal.”
Microbes can affect plant health and fitness, stimulate plant growth, and protect plants from biotic and abiotic stress. They can live externally on or internally in their host plants. Microbes that live outside their host plants are either epiphytic, i.e., living on the plant leaf surface, or rhizospheric, i.e., inhabiting plant roots within the soil. Conversely, microbes that live and thrive inside their host plant are called endophytic microbes.