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Researchers aim to disarm a 'cereal killer'

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A fungus that kills an estimated 30 percent of the world’s rice crop may finally have met its match, thanks to a research discovery made by scientists at the University of Delaware and the University of California at Davis.

The research team, led by Harsh Bais, associate professor of plant and soil sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, has identified a naturally occurring microbe living right in the soil around rice plants — Pseudomonas chlororaphis EA105 — that inhibits the devastating fungus known as rice blast. What’s more, the beneficial soil microbe also induces a system-wide defense response in rice plants to battle the fungus.

The research, which is funded by the National Science Foundation, is published in BMC Plant Biology and includes, along with Bais, authors Carla Spence, a doctoral student in the Department of Biological Sciences, Emily Alff, who recently earned her master’s degree in plant and soil sciences, and Nicole Donofrio, associate professor of plant and soil sciences, all from UD; and Sundaresan Venkatesan, professor, Cameron Johnson, assistant scientist, and graduate student Cassandra Ramos, all from UC Davis.

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