Managing Plant Microbe Interactions in Soil to Promote Sustainable Agriculture
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Members of the fungal genus Trichoderma are well known for providing multiple beneficial effects to their hosts including enhanced plant growth and development, induced systemic defense (IRS), and defense against pathogens through mycoparasitism. Ingress and colonization of plant roots is often the pivotal event that initiates these beneficial effects. For instance, the elicitor SM1 is secreted by T. virens within the rhizosphere and root to prime the plant for an induced defense response (ISR). Colonization of the root by T. virens provides the fungus with a source of sucrose and enables the endophyte to attack invading pathogens by producing novel secondary metabolites and cell wall degrading enzymes. To enhance the ability of T. virens to promote these many beneficial effects requires a deeper understanding of the genes and their products that are essential for colonization. We have developed databases of the interaction of T. virens with maize roots over time as well as with maize mutants that react differently than the wild type to T. virens. These databases can be analyzed to biologically illustrate which genes are critically involved in root colonization and ISR. In addition, we will use mathematical approaches to develop gene connections to reveal networks that influence beneficial effects.