Fungi Aids Food Security

Monday, January 2, 2012 @ 02:01 PM gHale


From improving food security to their use as biotechnology power horses, the industry’s use of Trichoderma fungi continues to grow.

Trichoderma are free-living fungi widely used in agricultural biotechnology. Some species of Trichoderma specifically see use as biocontrol agents to control plant pathogens including Fusarium species. Their success is partly due to mycoparasitism – a lifestyle where one fungus is parasitic on another fungus. Regular use of Trichoderma species on plants can reduce the need to use chemical pesticides. This provides an economic advantage to farmers and helps improve food security.

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Trichoderma naturally live in the soil where they form symbiotic associations with plants. The microbe–plant relationship can alter plant gene expression to bring benefits to the plant, including increased resistance to pathogens and abiotic stresses, such as drought and heat. The efficiency of photosynthesis and nitrogen fertilizer uptake can also improve through altered gene expression. Typically, these genetic changes lead to a net increase in plant growth and productivity.

One member of the genus, Trichoderma reesei, sees use as a biotechnological cell factory for the large-scale production of cellulase enzymes (needed for biofuel production) and recombinant proteins. T. reesei is also a widely-used model for studying protein secretion.

Researchers Benjamin A. Horwitz of Technion in Israel and Alfredo Herrera-Estrella of the National Laboratory of Genomics for Biodiversity in Mexico), who wrote a paper on the topic said this is a useful tool for researchers.

“We hope that this will allow the identification of new opportunities for the exploitation of this microbe’s impressive genetic potential.”



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