Microbiology Today May 2005

May 2005 - Microbes in the garden

Britain is a nation of gardeners, apparently, but I wonder if even the gardening guru Alan Titchmarsh knows all that's going on invisibly in his back yard.

The threads that bind: symbiotic fungi in the garden
When it comes to gardens, most people think of microbes as pests, but certain fungi are essential to plant growth. Alastair Fitter explains how this marvellous symbiosis of plant roots and fungi, called a mycorrhiza, is part of virtually all plants' existence.

Bacterial and fungal diseases of garden plants
However, some microbes do cause problems to gardeners. Bacteria, but more especially fungi, damage most garden plants. And as with most things in life, timing is everything - many pathogens only attack during one of the more vulnerable stages of development, as Roland Fox explains.

Soil microbes and the war on garden weeds
Weeds are a nuisance, especially to chemically conscious gardeners, who don't like using herbicides to get rid of them. But, according to Robert J. Kremer, there is another way. Well-managed microbes can provide an effective, alternative means of weed control.

'Broken' tulips and Tulip breaking virus
Tulips have always been popular as garden plants and cut flowers, but never more so than in the 17th Century, when diseased bulbs were all the rage. Alan Brunt and John Walsh describe how in 1637 a tulip bulb with its bold colour broken into a variegated pattern by a viral infection could cost as much as a desirable house in central Amsterdam. Today, it's difficult to imagine people yearning to own and then lovingly displaying diseased flowers.

Barbecue roulette
Global warming holds an additional risk to the people of Britain, say Martin Adams and Simon Park. Rises in temperature and longer days mean that more of us will be tempted by the lure of the barbecue, which could be followed by an unwelcome dose of food poisoning. Already, at the first sign of sun, people dust down the grill and head outside to cook.

Bugs within bugs: symbiotic bacteria in garden insects
Many of the 'larger' garden pests, insects, couldn't get along without the help of microbes, according to Angela Douglas. She tells us about the unseen symbiotic microbes that help garden insects, such as caterpillars and aphids, to survive and consume our plants.

Home composting and its role in waste management
Gardeners have long valued compost and using household waste makes this a cheap treat for soils. But, since the UK currently dumps 85 % of its domestic waste straight into landfill, this practice can also make a significant contribution to reducing environmental pollution, as Stephen Smith and Olympia Mitaftsi explain.

Comment: Plant pathogens on the move
The role of increased air travel in spreading exotic pathogens around the globe has already sparked many debates, but the international trade in garden plants also brings new threats to the UK countryside, as Béatrice Henricot and Caroline Gorton explain.

Schoolzone keeps with the garden theme and takes a look at how harmful crown gall tumours on trees and shrubs can be put to good use. Dariel Burdass explains how DNA from the bacteria that cause the tumour can get into a plant's genome and how this process can be exploited by biotechnologists for our benefit.

Gradline Editor, Jane Westwell, looks at careers in life science commercialization and technology transfer.

Hot off the Press highlights some new developments in microbiological research published in the Society's journals - Microbiology, Journal of General Virology, International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology and Journal of Medical Microbiology. Topics covered include:

  • The fight against blight - a potential viral solution
  • A novel soil bacterium and antibiotic-resistant TB
  • The flexible E. coli genome
  • Getting attached

Other items include:

Last updated 22 July 2005