Outcome of Managing indigenous seed-inhabiting microbes for biological control against Fusarium pathogens in corn

This project was initially approved from January 10th 2014 to January 10th 2015. Beginning spring of 2014, the project was first extended to May 10th 2015, and eventually to Dec. 31st 2015. While the field research was successfully conducted in 2014, we needed nearly the entire year of 2015 to troubleshoot DNA-based methods and to process the seed and plant samples for DNA-based pathogen detection and next-generation DNA sequencing.

In addition to optimizing DNA methods, by the end of the 2014 field season, the lab had established a high-throughput culture-based workflow to screen seedborne bacteria for their biological control ability against pathogenic Fusarium (section 3.1). Using this workflow, we found promising biocontrol candidates that could effectively reduce Fusarium infection by being applied directly to the seed. While it was too late to use one of our lab cultures in the 2014 field season, we took advantage of the extra 2015 field season to test two promising biocontrol candidates in an additional, small field experiment at Oregon State University.

This project will become a chapter of my PhD dissertation and part of it will likely become a publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Given the wealth of DNA sequencing data generated with the grant, it is probable that many important findings have yet to be uncovered. Furthermore, I will continue to screen seedborne microbes for biocontrol against Fusarium. OFRF should expect to receive follow-up reports as I continue to dedicate more of my time to exploring the rich DNA sequencing dataset and continue culturing of beneficial microbes.

While the bulk of analysis of the DNA sequencing dataset is still ongoing, the DNA-based methods that have come out of this project provide important contributions to the rapidly-growing field of plant microbiome research. It is the first project, to my knowledge, that utilizes next-generation DNA sequencing to study microbial endophytes in corn. Moreover, it is the first of its kind to study the impact of seed treatments on the microbiome of the plant.