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Plant Friends Roundup

September 8, 2006

The microbes that live in plants’ cells may be essential to their well-being.


Infections that save plants. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Grasses survive in a variety of environments, from soggy salt marshes to dry prairies, and it may be thanks to fungi living in their root cells. A new study found that grasses with beneficial fungi experience less stress from drought, heat and exposure to salt water. Farmers may be able to use the fungi to grow a variety of crops in soils that can’t now be farmed.

In related news, scientists have discovered that widely used medicinal compounds found in the leaves of the ginkgo tree may be produced with help from tiny, ghost-like algae that live insde the gingko’s cells. The algae rely on the host gingko for survival. Researchers believe they return the favor by producing compounds that protect the tree from pests.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.