Fighting fungal disease in wheat with microbes

As an alternative to the heavy use of chemicals in agriculture, Dr. Vanessa Nessner Kavamura’s research strives for more sustainable crop production by using microbes. To prevent fungal disease in wheat, Dr. Kavamura is researching the potentially useful chemical compounds produced by microbes to fight disease-causing organisms. View Halo Profile >>

Tell us about your research

Current conventional agriculture relies heavily on the use of agrochemicals such as fertilizers, fungicides, insecticides and pesticides. Microbes associated with plants can boost their growth and performance via different mechanisms. One of them is the suppression of pathogens, via the production of secondary metabolites, competition for resources or through the stimulation of the host’s immune system. Effective control measures for Fusarium head blight (FHB) are unavailable, and the use of biological control agents is a promising option. My goal is to determine the antagonistic potential of bacterial secondary metabolites and their efficacy to control FHB in wheat plants. 

Current conventional agriculture relies heavily on the use of agrochemicals such as fertilizers, fungicides, insecticides and pesticides. Microbes associated with plants can boost their growth and performance via different mechanisms.

Can you explain that to a non-scientist?

Some beneficial microorganisms associated with plants can help plants grow and develop healthily by producing compounds which can inhibit the growth of plant-disease causing organisms. My aim is to analyse whether these beneficial microbes can be effective at reducing the incidence of a fungal disease of wheat called Fusarium head blight.

Why did you choose this area of research?

I have been studying the rhizosphere–the plant-soil interface–rich in signalling molecules released by plants. These molecules can attract and support the growth of beneficial microbes, and in turn, beneficial microbes can help the plant through growth promotion as well as abiotic and biotic stress protection. Like the gut microbiome, which is known to play an important role in host health, the microbiome of plants helps them tolerate biotic and abiotic stresses. I believe microbes are very versatile, and can be further explored for agricultural use. They have the potential to help increase crop production in a more sustainable way, which is one of the most important challenges of the 21st century.

How could your Grants4Ag project someday impact #healthforall #hungerfornone? 

Crops are continuously threatened by abiotic and biotic stresses. Some plant diseases can be devastating, with ineffective control methods available. The #Grants4Ag project would allow me to further assess the potential of microbes in inhibiting the growth of Fusarium graminearum and test their ability and efficiency to control the development of Fusarium Head Blight (FHB) in mature wheat plants. Additionally, the multidisciplinary approach would enable the evaluation of microbes and their extracts on non-target soil organisms and could lead to the development of natural products for the specific control of FHB. 

The #Grants4Ag project would allow me to further assess the potential of microbes in inhibiting the growth of Fusarium graminearum and test their ability and efficiency to control the development of Fusarium Head Blight (FHB) in mature wheat plants.