Boost Biomes Working on Disease Resistance

Researching the New Frontier

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

California Ag Today recently spoke with Robert McBride of Boost Biomes. McBride explained his vision for the company.

“It’s the new frontier; It has not been researched that much,” he said.

He told us that the company is working on getting the correct microbes into the soil to enhance plants’ productivity.

“I would say the key thing that we think about in terms of getting the right microbes into the soil is that microbes are kind of like a plant’s second genome,” McBride said.

Genomes have the ability to impact the plant’s phenotype, along with the way the plants grow in different temperatures and soil salinity levels.

“They can change the flavor of the fruits and it is all controlled by the microbes in the rhizosphere,” McBride explained.

Boost Biomes is interested in controlling pest resistance. The microbiome shifts to a state that is protective.

“What we would like to do is take soils that are not protective and encourage that shift to happen more quickly,” McBride said.

Boost Biomes takes advantage of the natural microbes in the soil and rhizosphere that protect the plants.

“We are trying to identify the right network to put into the soil to get into the rhizosphere to make the plants resistant against diseases,” McBride explained.

Steve Koike on Resistant Cultivars

The Search for Resistant Cultivars

By Emily McKay Johnson, Associate Editor

In the second part of our series with Steve Koike, plant pathology farm advisor for UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Cooperative Extension in Monterey County, the focus is on the critically needed research on resistant cultivars. Koike, who has focused his research since 1989 primarily on the understanding of disease systems and the investigation of new methods of disease control, said, “The role or the need for resistant cultivars is tremendous.”

“Some good case studies of resistant cultivar research address soil-born problems on lettuce,” Koike explained. “For example, Fusarium wilt and Verticillium wilt on lettuce could be managed lightly; but in order to overcome those diseases, resistant lettuce varieties need to be in place.”

Steve Koike, UC Cooperative Extension, Monterey County.
Steve Koike, UC Cooperative Extension, Monterey County.

“First discovered in 1995 on the Central Coast,” said Koike, “Verticillium wilt has the potential to infect and damage numerous different crops. And although Fusarium wilt was typically unseen in the San Joaquin Valley, it has recently begun to appear on the Central Coast.”

Continued improvement of management techniques upon discovering initial disease symptoms is necessary, according to Koike. “Symptoms of the disease usually appear on the lower leaves of plants, around the edges, and the areas between the veins can turn a yellowish-brown.”

“Strawberries currently have three really important disease pressures state-wide: Verticillium wilt, Macrophomina (charcoal rot) and Fusarium wilt,” Koike commented. “Even the fumigation tools we have are not cleaning them up 100 percent, so we have problems.”

“We will continue to have problems,” Koike elaborated, “until there are truly resistant strawberry varieties to those pathogens. Plant breeders understand that IPM management of these diseases is so dependent on developing resistant varieties,” he said, “but we’re not there yet. We do not yet have truly resistant lettuce or strawberry varieties out in the field,” Koike said.

_______________________________

Koike and his fellow researchers discovered a new race of the downey mildew pathogen in spinach that has been designated race 16. While there are some varieties that are supposedly resistant to race 16, Koike noted that there is still more research to be done.

To read the first part of our series on Downey Mildew, click here.