The leaves of cabbage growing in New York fields and greenhouses between 2004 and 2013 were severely wilted by a bacteria that caused their leaves to turn brown sometimes to the point where they looked scorched. In Turkey between 2004 and 2006, sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage withered and rotted during winter. The plant epidemic called black rot, which threatens food security worldwide, was not understood for more than a century.



Their findings will allow scientists to develop more effective treatments for infected plants while also developing methods to breed bacteria-resistant crops without the use of genetic engineering, said study leader Miao Yansong of Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) School of Biological Sciences.The whole field has to be burned for some of the devastating agricultural diseases, he said.A farmer can suffer substantial losses if pre-harvesting batches of squash contain bacteria, and if they are opened up to find black rot, those vegetables cause the farm to lose a great deal of money.”

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Xanthomonas, which causes black rot on plants, injects toxic proteins into their cells, according to researcher Miao. A substance on the surface of plant cells activates an immune response against disease. A sticky network of toxic proteins forms on the surface of the cells, allowing the plant to hijack its protective mechanisms.

In a statement, Prof Miao said, “Our research has given us new insights into how (toxic proteins) damage plants.

As a result of this discovery, NTU scientists are developing a “toolkit” for plant biologists on how to implement the new mechanism for making crops bacteria-resistant. For example, they could use new technology or methods to create bacteria-resistant plants that could fend off the black rot pathogen. In the future, we can create new solutions without genetic modification,” Prof Miao said.


The discovery may also aid in developing precise diagnostic methods for detecting diseases in plants and contribute to the development of new plant breeding programs, said Dr Mandar Godge of the Centre for Research and Opportunities in Plant Science at Temasek Polytechnic.

As a way to improve its food security, Singapore has been establishing urban farms in recent years. While fresh leafy greens grown in Singapore are more likely to suffer from black rot than broccoli or cabbage, the bacteria can also infect cruciferous vegetables.

Dr Godge noted there have been reports of black rot infections in some crops grown domestically, such as bok choy, kai lan, choy sum, lettuce, and kale. In Singapore, the economic impact of black rot on these leafy vegetables is largely unknown, he added.

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Furthermore, the warm and moist climate here is ideal for the growth of the Xanthomonas bacteria. Bacteria like these, or similar ones, are found in grass or fields. In addition to rain and wind, they can be spread by other methods.

Prof Miao said Singapore has a large variety of plants, and some of these plants are favourable to such bacteria. However, research on this is limited.The bacteria may enter enclosed farms from air exchanges or when workers bring them in unknowingly, even in Singapore where produce is largely grown indoors.

According to Prof Miao, indoor farms present less risk of infection, but once a case is made, there is a risk of bacteria accumulating.

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