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David Sparks Ph.d Beating Nematodes
by David Sparks Ph.d, click here for bio

Program: Line on Agriculture
Date: August 14, 2017

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Invisible to the naked eye, cyst nematodes are a major threat to agriculture, causing billions of dollars in global crop losses every year. A group of plant scientists, led by University of Missouri researchers, recently found one of the mechanisms cyst nematodes use to invade and drain life-sustaining nutrients from soybean plants. Similar research is being conducted on potatoes and sugar beets. Understanding the molecular basis of interactions between plants and nematodes could lead to the development of new strategies to control these major agricultural pests and help feed a growing global population.

Soybeans are a major component for two-thirds of the world’s animal feed and more than half the edible oil consumed in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Cyst nematodes jeopardize the healthy production of this critical global food source by “hijacking” the soybean plants’ biology.

“Cyst nematodes are one of the most economically devastating groups of plant-parasitic nematodes worldwide,” said Melissa Goellner Mitchum, a researcher in the Bond Life Sciences Center and an associate professor in the Division of Plant Sciences at MU. “These parasites damage root systems by creating a unique feeding cell within the roots of their hosts and leeching nutrients out of the soybean plant. This can lead to stunting, wilting and yield loss for the plant. We wanted to explore the pathways and mechanisms cyst nematodes use to commandeer soybean plants.”

About 15 years ago, Mitchum and colleagues unlocked clues into how nematodes use small chains of amino acids, or peptides, to feed on soybean roots.

 

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