Singapore scientists uncover secret of the black rot in vegetable crops

Every year between 2004 and 2013, swathes of cabbage grown in fields and greenhouses across New York were attacked by a lethal bacteria that severely wilted the leaves, sometimes making the vegetables appear scorched. For over a century, little was known about this untreatable plant epidemic called black rot, which threatens food security worldwide.

But a group of scientists in Singapore has, for the first time, identified how this "crop killer" bacteria hijack plants at the molecular level and cripple their immune systems.

Their findings will pave the way for plant biologists to better treat infected plants and find ways to rear bacteria-resistant crops without using genetic engineering, said the study's lead, Associate Professor Miao Yansong from Nanyang Technological University's (NTU) School of Biological Sciences.

"For some of the devastating disease in agriculture, the whole field has to be burnt," he said.

Prof Miao and his team found that the black rot-causing bacteria, called Xanthomonas, inject toxic proteins into plant cells. The surface of plant cells contains substances that activate an immune response against diseases. But the toxic proteins form a sticky network, adhering to the cell surface and hijacking the plant's defense mechanisms.

Read the complete article at www.straitstimes.com.

 


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