Scottish scientists develop a more effective way to fight plant bacteria

A Scottish research team have discovered a new way to protect crops from a pervasive bacterial disease.

Researchers at Glasgow University presented their findings on preventing Pseudomonas syringe (Ps) in the Plant Biotechnology Journal last week.

Pesticides are under increasing regulatory pressure, making it crucial to develop new  ways of fighting off bacterial disease.

The team were able to genetically modify the crops to produce a protein antibiotic called bacteriocin which combats Ps.

This is the first time this modification has been applied to plants.

Dr Joel Milner from the Plant Science Group, one of the leading scientists behind this project, stated:

 

“Unlike typical antibiotics, the bacteriocins are produced to give an advantage to the crops since they are extremely targeted.”

When compared to conventional antibiotics, bacteriocin presents a lower risk of causing the bacteria to develop resistance.

Plants with bacteriocin can resist bacterial infection without affecting the surrounding organisms and environment.Transgenic technology uses gene coding to create the bacteriocin so the treated crop can successfully fight off Ps disease.

The future development of this research has two aspects; to explore the commercial potential for introducing bacteriocin into economically important crops and to build relationships with potential industrial partners.

Dr Milner said: “To maximize the benefits of this discovery and because of problems of public acceptability and development costs of GM crops, we are now working on ways to use bacteriocins to protect crops in ways that do not rely on GM.”

The team has secured a patent covering the use of genetically modified crops expressing bacteriocin.