Seminar: The Microbiome's Role in Apple Production

Phillip Martin, Ph.D. student, Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology, Penn State
Credit: Michael Houtz, Penn State

Credit: Michael Houtz, Penn State

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October 20, 2017, 12:20 PM - 1:10 PM

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Apple trees support diverse microbe populations that have large impacts on fruit production. Historical studies using culturing methods hinted at microbial complexity and diversity that has only recently been revealed with next generation sequencing (NGS) technologies. While the resolution of NGS is much greater than culturing methods the broadest trends are observed with both methods, at least in the above ground parts of the tree. In a pattern long observed in ecology, a small number of taxa comprise most of the population. The vast majority of microbes have minimal or beneficial effects on fruit production, but pathogenic microbes can cause devastating crop losses. Use of integrated pest management (IPM) strategies to manipulate the microbiome to control plant pathogens has enjoyed widespread success. The application of beneficial microbes as bio-controls to reduce crop losses from pathogenic microbes holds potential, as shown by a case study at Penn State. Regional climate conditions seem to have large impacts on the success of biocontrols, which have had mixed success in the marketplace. The future production of healthy and affordable apples will be aided by microbiome manipulation within the context of established IPM strategies.

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