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Research Project: Genetics of Disease Resistance and Food Quality Traits in Corn

Location: Plant Science Research

Title: Manipulating the plant mycobiome to enhance resilience: Ecological and evolutionary opportunities and challenges

item HAWKES, CHRISTINE - North Carolina State University
item ALLEN, XAVIOUS - North Carolina State University
item Balint-Kurti, Peter
item Cowger, Christina

Submitted to: PLoS Pathogens
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/14/2023
Publication Date: 12/14/2023
Citation: Hawkes, C., Allen, X., Balint Kurti, P.J., Cowger, C. 2023. Manipulating the plant mycobiome to enhance resilience: Ecological and evolutionary opportunities and challenges. PLoS Pathogens. 19(12):e1011816.

Interpretive Summary: This short article reviews the literature around how the plant mycobiome (the plant-associated fungal community) may be manipulated to help plants cope with stress and to enhance agricultural production. It also includes some speculation on what type of interventions might be most effective in future.

Technical Abstract: Recent evidence supports a substantial role for fungal symbionts in mediating plant stress phenotypes, including plant drought tolerance and defense against pathogens, which has generated interest in manipulating these fungi to enhance plant resilience. Methods to manipulate the plant mycobiome can (1) leverage existing fungal communities by promoting beneficial taxa or functions, or (2) disrupt existing fungal communities by introducing novel (or genetically modified) taxa. Manipulation of existing communities has a long history in agriculture, with, for example, crop rotations to help suppress soil-borne fungal disease. More recently, entire foliar fungal communities from healthy plants were successfully transplanted to reduce rust infections in a critically endangered Hawaiian tree. In the near future, applications that target chemical signaling may be used to stimulate plant colonization by beneficial fungi or to induce their benefits for the plant. In the longer term, plant breeding (or genetic manipulation) to produce varieties that support more beneficial mycobiomes may be an effective strategy, given that historically, breeding has inadvertently shifted plant-fungal associations.