Reducing Pathogen Damage in Biofuel Plantations Using Symbionts
Plant disease is the greatest biological threat to poplar feedstock production. The traditional method of managing disease by selectively breeding disease-resistant plants has not kept pace with rapidly evolving pathogens.
Our research evaluates a novel strategy for controlling disease in poplars using naturally occurring leaf endophytes—fungi that live within plants without causing disease—to enhance resistance to pathogens.
Controlling disease with naturally occurring plant symbionts could reduce both the economic and environmental costs of hybrid poplar feedstock production.
We have isolated hundreds of endophytes from western black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa) growing in the wild. Our greenhouse and field experiments have demonstrated that inoculation with particular endophytes increases Populus resistance to pathogens. Our future efforts will evaluate the suitability of endophytes for industrial application.