Research project on ice-nucleation by bacteria

March 21, 2012 at 9:00 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Strange but true – some bacteria can enhance rainfall. Dr Asaad (right) and Mr Moukahal evaluate  Pseudomonas resistance in greenhouse plantsWith rainfall in dry areas becoming lower and more erratic, researchers are looking for ways to enhance precipitation. One promising option – airborne plant pathogens. Pseudomonas syringae (P.s.) is a bacterial pathogen that can cause severe yield losses in crops. But it can also contribute to ice-nucleation – the micro-organisms act as ‘cores’, stimulating the formation of ice crystals in clouds, enhancing precipitation. Ice nucleation has been studied in many different P.s. strains, and the results suggest that the bacterium plays an active role in the water cycle. ICARDA is leading a project on Identifying the sources and role of ice-nucleation bacteria in the dry areas, in collaboration with Montana State University in the USA, the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique in France, and the University of Aleppo in Syria. The project aims to find non-pathogenic strains of P.s. from bread wheat plants and seed. Such strains would provide ice-nucleation benefits without causing crop damage.

During 2011, about 100 bread wheat varieties were studied at ICARDA’s Tel Hadya headquarters. Several strains of P.s. were isolated from the leaves and seed of some varieties; the isolates from seed, in particular, could have major implications for possible multiplication of bacterial strains. These strains were studied using biochemical characterization as well as ice nucleation tests in the laboratory. They were also tested (under carefully controlled conditions) for pathogenicity against 25 crops that are grown in dryland areas in West Asia and North Africa. This research is being led by Dr Siham Asaad, Head of ICARDA’s Seed Health Unit, and graduate student Abdoul Rahman Moukahal. Their research is still ongoing – watch this space for more news.

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