In New York state, researchers at Boyce Thompson Institute have found that compounds from an unlikely source—microscopic soil roundworms—could protect crops from pests and pathogens without using toxic pesticides. As described in research published in the May 2019 issue of Journal of Phytopathology, these compounds helped protect major crops from various pathogens, and thus have potential to save billions of dollars and increase agricultural sustainability around the world.
The researchers believe the reason that different plant species have different optimal dosages is likely related to the plant cell’s receptors for ascr#18. Different plant species may express different amounts of ascr#18 receptors, and receptors may have varying affinities for ascarosides. Such differences would affect the amount of ascr#18 needed to trigger the plant’s immune systems.
The group is now working to determine the molecular mechanisms of how ascarosides prime the plant’s immune systems.