News Release

Roots of resistance: unveiling the soil-saving secrets of grafting

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Nanjing Agricultural University The Academy of Science

Composition of bacterial communities in soil.


Composition of bacterial communities in soil.

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Credit: Horticulture Research

Grafting, an age-old horticultural technique, has been revealed as a powerful tool against soil-borne diseases like crown gall. New research uncovers how the composition of root exudates changes when plants are grafted onto resistant rootstocks, creating a defensive mechanism that reduces the prevalence of pathogenic Agrobacterium.

Crown gall disease, a destructive plant ailment caused by Agrobacterium, has long plagued agriculture, leading to significant crop losses. Traditional control methods have proven inadequate, highlighting an urgent need for innovative solutions. Given the pervasive impact of this disease and the limitations of current strategies, there is a pressing demand to explore the complex interplay between plant roots and soil microbes, potentially unlocking new avenues for disease resistance.

Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Forestry and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences have made a breakthrough in understanding how grafting can suppress crown gall disease. Published (DOI: 10.1093/hr/uhae049) in the prestigious journal Horticulture Research on 23 February 2024, the study delves into the defensive alteration of root exudate composition, offering new insights into plant-pathogen interactions.

This study meticulously investigates the impact of grafting on root exudates, the biochemical substances secreted by plant roots that influence soil microbial communities. The research reveals that grafting disease-susceptible Prunus sp. onto resistant rootstock 'Haiying 1' triggers a significant reduction in pathogenic Agrobacterium. The team discovered that the root exudates from grafted plants were enriched with beneficial bacteria and depleted of the pathogen. Notably, the decrease in valine, an amino acid in root exudates, was linked to the suppression of crown gall disease. This finding is pivotal, as it suggests that the modification of root exudates through grafting can directly and positively influence the soil microbiome, thereby enhancing the plant's natural defense mechanisms against pathogens. The study's comprehensive approach, combining field experiments with biochemical and microbiome analyses, provides a robust foundation for understanding the multifaceted benefits of grafting in disease resistance.

Dr. Yunpeng Liu, corresponding author and lead researcher, emphasizes the significance of these findings: "Our research sheds light on the intricate relationship between plants and soil microbes. By understanding how grafting influences root exudates, we can develop more sustainable and effective methods to protect plants from diseases, ultimately contributing to global food security."

The research significantly advances sustainable agriculture by highlighting the natural defense mechanisms in plants. With the potential to minimize chemical pesticide use, it promotes eco-friendly farming. Grafting resistant rootstocks could become a widespread practice, enhancing crop health and yields. The discovery of root exudate compounds offers a pathway to develop precise biocontrol agents against soil-borne diseases, thereby bolstering global food security and reducing the agriculture sector's environmental footprint.





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Funding information

This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grants 32370135 and 31700548) and the Innovation Program of Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS-CSAL-202302).

About Horticulture Research

Horticulture Research is an open access journal of Nanjing Agricultural University and ranked number one in the Horticulture category of the Journal Citation Reports ™ from Clarivate, 2022. The journal is committed to publishing original research articles, reviews, perspectives, comments, correspondence articles and letters to the editor related to all major horticultural plants and disciplines, including biotechnology, breeding, cellular and molecular biology, evolution, genetics, inter-species interactions, physiology, and the origination and domestication of crops.

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