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Strange Case in a Nursery Setting

There are mostly benign species in the soil-borne, plant-associated genus of bacteria known as Rhodococcus, but a few species can be pathogenic. A team of researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) used genome sequencing to identify species of Rhodococcus that transition between beneficial and pathogenic – stimulating growth in some plants in the former case, while deforming tissues in the latter.

The key to Rhodococcus transitioning between being a “good” and “bad” bacteria is made possible by DNA molecules known as plasmids, said Jeff Chang, a microbial genomicist in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences and leader of the study. A plasmid is a DNA molecule maintained separately from the chromosome of bacteria.

"We traced how the beneficial and pathogenic members of Rhodococcus are moving from plant to plant and nursery to nursery. Now we can inform the nursery industry to implement practices to limit its spread,” explained Dr. Chang.

NIFA supports this project through Specialty Crop Research Initiative and Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

Read more at Oregon State University.

Want to read about more impacts like this? Check out Fresh from the Field, a weekly bulletin showcasing transformative impacts made by grantees funded by NIFA.

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