Role of helper mucrobes enhancing downy mildew on leafy vegetables
Downy mildews cause severe diseases and losses on many vegetable and field crops, e.g. lettuce and spinach. The speed at which new downy mildew races emerge and break resistance makes it that new strategies for crop protection are desperately needed. Our innovative proposal, focusing on downy mildew-associated microbes that help the pathogen to infect host plants, is expected to provide new strategies for both resistance breeding as well as other methods to block helper microbes and thereby reduce disease.
Host-associated microbes (or microbiomes) emerge as important contributors of human, animal, and plant health and performance. Plant-associated microbial communities in the rhizosphere can effectively reduce plant disease. The role and function of microbes in the phyllosphere is less well studied, although it is clear that they have a strong effect on plant disease. In this project we aim to understand the microbial composition of downy mildew-infected leaves and how it affects disease susceptibility. Recent research suggests that microbes, that are normally associated with the host plant or pathogen, are required for disease development. By helping the invading pathogens, these helper microbes reduce the resistance levels of crops, but on the other hand present new opportunities for crop protection.
Fundamental studies on downy mildew-microbiomes are required to identify and functionally analyze pathogen-helpers and to use this knowledge to improve crop resistance to downy mildew by blocking these microbes. We envision that the proposed research will lead to new and alternative strategies for improved protection against plant diseases that will strongly benefit society.
To deliver new knowledge, methods, and microbes that can be used to improve genetic resistance to downy mildew or provide other strategies to combat pathogens.
Current strategies to control downy mildew disease in various crops are not durable. Therefore, other avenues for disease control must be explored.
The proposed research is highly relevant from a fundamental and scientific point of view, but also has a promising outlook for application. Very little is known on the role of microbes during downy mildew infection of plants. As the proposed research is clearly fundamental, we expect many new interesting discoveries that will broaden our scientific knowledge. At the same time, it is becoming clear that looking at a single host and single pathogen is too narrow-minded. By including knowledge on the role of the phyllosphere and pathogen-associated microbiome during downy mildew infection we will get a better understanding of environmental factors that were previously difficult to grasp. When the proposed research leads to improved protection against plant diseases it is clear that there is big gain for society.