Understanding the affects of Trichoderma can help us towards sustainable agriculture.

Towards sustainable agriculture; exploiting the plant growth promotion and induced immunity of Trichoderma

University of Exeter

Researchers: Chris Thornton and Murray Grant

Funder: BBSRC

The University of Exeter is undertaking a project to exploit the amazing chemical diversity of soil micro-organisms such as Trichoderma.

The BBSRC funded research will improve plant growth promotion and induced immunity on a range of important plant species.

The work, lead by Dr Chris Thornton and Professor Murray Grant, is focused on understanding the bioactive molecules involved, and the plant signalling networks engaged, by a novel strain of Trichoderma hamatu.

Trichoderma has the remarkable ability to promote growth in monocots and dicots by over 30 per cent dry mass. The micro-organisms also provide enhanced resistance to a diverse range of normally dangerous root pathogens such as Rhizocotonia solani, and foliar pathogens such as rice blast fungus, Magnaporthe oryzae.

With the human population due to expand to nine billion by 2050, improvements to food production systems are needed to ensure that crop yields can meet our future food demands.

Part of these improvements will see the cultivation of the marginal land previously seen as unusable. Much of this land will have sub-optimal fertility and nutrient-poor soils requiring inputs of synthetic fertilisers to support sustainable crop production meaning that alternative strategies for sustainable crop production need to be examined.

This multidisciplinary research project combines different techniques to unravel Trichoderma bioactives, capture the plant transcriptional reprogramming induced by the bioactives, and identify key components of the signalling networks associated with increased growth and immunity.