Scientists to Develop Plant Probiotic from Soil Bacterium
Scientists from Rutgers
University have identified an antibiotic produced by soil bacterium which can
be developed into a plan probiotics. Probiotics that provide friendlier
bacteria and health benefits for humans can also be beneficial for plants.
The new antibiotic, known as phazolicin, prevents harmful bacteria from getting into the root systems of bean plants, according to a Rutgers coauthored study in the journal Nature Communications.
“We hope to show the bacterium can be used as a ‘plant probiotic’ because phazolicin will prevent other, potentially harmful bacteria from growing in the root system of agriculturally important plants,” said senior author Konstantin Severinov, a principal investigator at the Waksman Institute of Microbiology and a professor of molecular biology and biochemistry in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. “Antibiotic resistance is a huge problem in both medicine and agriculture, and continuing searches for new antibiotics are very important as they may provide leads for future antibacterial agents.”
The bacterium that produces phazolicin is an unidentified species of Rhizobium. It was found in a tropical forest in Los Tuxtlas, Mexico, in the soil and roots of wild beans called Phaseolus vulgaris, hence the antibiotic’s name: phazolicin. Like other Rhizobia, the phazolicin-producing microbe forms nodules on bean plant roots and provides plants with nitrogen, making them grow more robustly than others. Unlike other Rhizobia, it also defends plants from harmful bacteria sensitive to phazolicin. The phenomenon could eventually be exploited in beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils, peanuts, soybeans and other legumes.