Basic microbiology research study unexpectedly uncovers practical findings for growers

Basic microbiology research study unexpectedly uncovers practical findings for growers.
Cover cropping also has its risks, especially if dying cover crops encourage disease pressure that passes on to the next crop.
Such is the unexpected lesson behind a recent study published in Phytobiomes, a new open-access journal of The American Phytopathological Society.
In this recently-published article, titled "Isolation of Cultivation-Resistant Oomycetes, First Detected as Amplicon Sequences, from Roots of Herbicide-Terminated Winter Rye," Dr. Matthew G. Bakker and several other researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service set out to describe the microbiology of dying rye cover crop roots and how their microbial communities changed over time in a field setting.
Among the many microorganisms detected, they found that several less-known species of oomycetes, including Pythium and Lagena species, were commonly associated with cereal rye cover crops.
While this research was originally meant to be basic, the study unexpectedly turned out to have some very practical findings.
In addition to describing and validating the microbiology of these rye cover crop roots, their work revealed that the Pythium species naturally passed on to the corn plants as they sprouted into seedlings, resulting in seedling disease.
"This study tells a neat story about how new research techniques can lead to unpredictable findings with important and practical applications," said Bakker.
"Another interesting aspect of this study was that the most abundant species of Pythium in the cover crop roots was different on one side of the field than on the other.
Other benefits of this study include… An improved understanding of the microbiology of dying plants in natural and managed ecosystems The demonstrated importance of using DNA technology to help detect the microbial communities associated with crops, as microorganisms can be difficult to cultivate in the laboratory An improved understanding of the ecology of oomycetes — and of the potential for shared pathogens between cover crops and grain crops Bakker hopes this and similar work will spark more research in root-soil dynamics.