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Fungal–Plant Symbiosis Offers a Promising Tool to Boost Crop Resilience

Fungal–Plant Symbiosis Offers a Promising Tool to Boost Crop Resilience

Researchers inoculated oilseed rape plants with a species of fungus that is known for its ability to combat pest insects. Utilizing the relationship between beneficial fungi and crop plants may introduce a new era of agriculture where the plant resilience is improved and the ecological footprint of traditional/chemical pesticides is minimized.

The study led by researchers from the University of Turku in Finland has shown that a species of fungus that normally grows in the wild and kills insects can be successfully inoculated in oilseed rape plants where it fosters a unique symbiotic relationship. The discovery is a step towards a future of sustainable agriculture, for which harnessing the power of  to enhance  and productivity holds great potential.

The researchers used Beauveria bassiana, a species of fungus known for its ability to combat pest insects. It is commonly used as a biopesticide that is sprayed on the leaves of crops. These biopesticides are used around the world, but their weakness has been their vulnerability to UV degradation. This led the researchers to explore an alternative approach where they inoculated oilseed rape plants with the fungus to foster a unique symbiotic relationship.

The study is part of the EcoStack project in the EU's Horizon Europe program. The research article was published in Pest Management Science.

"We embarked on a journey to unlock the potential of Beauveria bassiana in crop protection, while it might live endophytically within the . This way, we aimed to create a natural defense mechanism against pests," explains the first author of the study, Docent Anne Muola from the Biodiversity Unit of the University of Turku.

Successful symbiosis caused an increase in flavonoid biosynthesis

Researchers made a breakthrough by establishing an endophytic relationship between the fungus and oilseed plants. The growth of the fungus in the plant tissue triggered a remarkable increase in flavonoid biosynthesis and compounds known for multiple plant benefits including antioxidant properties.

"Our findings suggest that the interaction between the fungus and the plant spurred a positive response in the form of enhanced metabolite production, rather than a defense response against the fungal intruder," states lead author of the study, Academy Research Fellow Benjamin Fuchs from the Biodiversity Unit of the University of Turku.

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