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Application of Microorganisms to Cure Plant Diseases

Project Summary:
Overview: Plant disease is widespread in nature and can cause great losses to the agriculture, but the mechanism of plant diseases and what causes a disease in plants are not fully explored yet. it is known that plants can produce antibiotics to defend pathogens. Those antibiotics are controlled by gene sequences. It started in the early 20th century, the study for plants disease-resistance is more than one century. In the previous study, biologist through Cross-breeding successfully cultivated new disease-resistant varieties and greatly increased grain yield, but this method took decades to cultivate disease-resistant varieties. This project is trying to find a method to cultivate disease-resistant plants quickly and conveniently. It could shorten the time greatly and cultivate disease-resistant plant varieties efficiently. In this project, plants disease-resistant gene are extracted and inserted into plant quickly and conveniently. This project can be increasingly supplemented with plant diseases-resistance.
Statement on Intellectual Merit:If the product from this experiment is stable and efficient, biologist don’t need to take decades to cultivate new disease-resistant varieties, this project not only can be applied in cultivating plants disease-resistant varieties but also available in other scientific fields. Such as Bio-pharmaceutical engineering, environmental engineering, Biological engineering and so on.
Statement on Broader Impacts: This project will influence human life widely. Every year, almost 40% crop reduction of output due to different kinds of plant diseases. If the losses can reduce to 10%, which means the rest food can support 2 billion people to survival. In addition to, the production organic matters and medicines are also produced from plants. More than that this project will benefit other researchers and scientists who are study on transgenic engineering, it can help them find required genes sequences quickly and provide a method to understand how protein can through various signaling pathways to defense pathogenic in the organism.
Project Description:
Section I. Personnel
PI: Hang Lin, Universal of Maryland, Graduate Student
Section II. Project
The first objective is to compare various type of plants which are exposed to the same pathogenic factor or to infection in order to see their effects on those selected plants.
The second goal is to determine defense mechanism, find the gene sequences which can produce antibiotic from uninfected plants.

Rationale and Significance:

Plant diseases through pests and mass infections (bacterial and virus) are the main causes of reduction and loss of agricultural production. Guest (2015) pointed out that “plant disease reduces the production and quality of food, fiber and biofuel crops. Losses may be catastrophic or chronic, but on average account for 42% of the production of the six most important food crops”. Besides, plant diseases will lower the quality of agricultural products, even produce some material that is harmful to human health. Currently, the chemical pesticides are used widely to control plant diseases. When skin is exposed to chemical pesticides, irritation and burns are the most common situation, the worse problem is that making people sick and some unpredictable healthy problems. Chemical pesticides can kill pests or recover plants efficiently, the disadvantage of chemical pesticides is obviously. For example, chemical pesticide residues not only harmful to human health but also damage the environment by causing soil salinization and alkalinization. It is hard for plants growing in suck kind soil. In addition to, part of the pesticides will remain on the surface of the plants, resulting in contamination in the food, vegetables, fruits and so on. The rest of pesticide will be scattered on the soil or evaporated and dispersed into the air. Through rain, those pesticides will land back to farmland drainage into rivers and lakes, polluting water resources and aquatic life. the livestock might possibly be fed with the plants that have agricultural residues on. Pesticide residues through meat can enter the human body. As a result, chemical pesticides through the air, water, soil, and food can cause various chronic or acute diseases. Furthermore, if the pesticides are used for a long-term that will cause pathogens to produce antibodies. Chemical pesticides could be a problem for human’s health and environment. For the significance of planting disease-resistant crops is very important, especial for farmer, they will contact chemical pesticides often. If there are diseases- resistant plant, it will protect their health and save money. To increase plant diseases-resistant ability quickly is no time to delay, and some recent study have found a way to increase plant diseases-resistant ability. It was mentioned by (Hyakumachi et al 2014) “From research on utilizing specific antagonistic microorganisms, many effective biological control agents (BCAs) have been found and are increasingly implemented in integrated pest management strategies to control plant diseases”. To find the BCAs and genomes of special plants needs to be sequenced to reveal which genes are involved in defense against to diseases or have resistance against the pesticide in order to control pollution, hence, protect environment indirectly.
Reducing chemical pesticides using and find a method to increase plant diseases-resistant ability have many benefits. For the public community, they want to get healthy food, vegetables and fruits caused it is important to guarantee for their health. For farmers, they want to gain considerable income and do not want to spend extra money on purchasing chemical pesticides, at the same time, not using chemical pesticide also reduce labor fee. It increases farmers income directly. The most important meaning is for environmental protection and ecologically sustainable development. Scientists has spent more than 1 hundred years to improve plant diseases-resistant, although scientific studies are very limited in this field. As John M.McDowell and Bonnie J.Woffenden (2003) referred “Although many exciting insights have emerged from recent research on plant defense signaling, our overall understanding of the process is still fragmentary”. with the development of science and technology, especially with the transgenic technology improving, it is believed that planting disease-resistant plants will be popularized in the future, which is of great significance for solving the global food crisis and environmental protection.

3. Research Question and Hypotheses:
Do some plant diseases only occur on certain plants?
1. Hypothesis: Only certain plants will be affected by the pathogenic factors, while other plants will be not infected or recover from the diseases.
Whether some plant diseases can cause more damage to plants that do not have a specific substance?
2. Hypothesis: The specific substance produced from uninfected plants can kill pest and bacterial.
4. Research Design:
Soil select: The biggest risk for the experiment is transferring the diseases-resistant gene into wild weed and other plants (Zapiola et al 2008), the soil in this experiment should contain enough nutrition but without other plants. The soil in this experiment could not contain other pathogenic factors. the soil needs to be heated more than 30 minutes under 100 Celsius degree. (Baker, K.F., 1957.)

Plant select: Pathogenesis-related proteins (PR-protein) is very important when plants get some diseases to defend pathogenic factors, the function of PR-protein express in antimicrobial production and antimicrobial metabolites. There are many effects of PR-proteins, which are capable of degrading fungal cell walls, cell membranes, RNA or participating in the production of metabolites that are resistant to pathogenic bacteria and by enhancing the physical barrier of cells to against diseases. (Wally, O.,

Bio-surveillance Technology: The Difficulty

Bio-surveillance technology is used in the United States to detect potential threats to human health which includes acts of terrorism, accidental environmental exposures and disease outbreaks. The most promising bio-surveillance technical developments will include a combination of approaches to determine the most cost-efficient detection techniques as well as new tools for the earliest possible identification of potential harmful pathogens. For this technology to be effective, collected data is dependent upon time restraints, proper analysis and interpretation from a federal, local and state level. Proper analysis and interpretation are critical for obtaining early warning of health risks, presence of disease, pathogens, and/or a potential bioterrorist attack.
There is a present need for developing bio-surveillance technology capabilities within government agencies. This technology should be used to disseminate information or biological threats across multiple agencies. To effectively use this developed technology, the United States must develop predictive models that allow for fast detection rates, the ability to prioritize search efforts and contain databases of information to measure the probability of detecting pathogens within a given location or timeframe. Additionally, to guarantee that this technology will continue to advance as new technologies emerge, the United States must employ individuals with special training for designing and implementing technical methods for the detection and identification of biosecurity risk and pathogens. Bio-surveillance technology should not be limited to detection measures and should be able to identify foreign pathogens within the environment, confirm the geographic source of foreign pathogens, identify potential bio-security issues and measure risk pathways.
Major Challenges: Federal, State and Local levels
The United States face terrorist threats and other biological threats to human, animal and plant health requiring the need for constant environmental monitoring for pathogens and any other biological agents that cause disease. Bio-surveillance techniques combine public health surveillance and focuses on methods for data collection and analysis for disease detection. This technology requires a continuous process, such as continuous data collection, analysis or retrieved data that confirms outbreaks and notifies decision makers.
Government organizations such as the Department of Homeland Security, Center for Disease Control (CDC), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Defense, the World Health Organization, and local and state sectors all conduct Bio-surveillance. It is up to the public health authorities to help improve the standards and relationships among federal, state and local public health organizations to successfully obtain health and disease tracking information. This collaboration between organizations will allow the improvement of access to health data, allow quicker assessments of population health indicators and provide public health officials with the proper information needed to develop novel Bio-surveillance technologies.
Bio-surveillance at a federal level is responsible for the collection, examining, and disseminating national disease occurrence to the local health departments, as well as the general public. Bio-surveillance is important at a federal level for proper dissemination however the individual state and local surveillance programs are the foundation for the success of the bio-surveillance systems. The reports from the state health departments and local agencies report situational awareness to the federal government. This strategy unfortunately involves the distribution of requirements from the bottom to the top and often threatens the state and local financial resources. The state and local levels need to establish secure funding to successfully build a national strategy for bio-surveillance technologies. The state and local levels need to ensure that monetary resources are available to employ and maintain experienced individuals to operate bio-surveillance programs and technologies.
Environmental Biological Detection Technologies
There is a need to develop and maintain novel bio-surveillance technologies for monitoring pathogen activity and emerging health threats. “Currently, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHUAPL) and Walter Reed Army Institute of Research have developed ESSENCE (Electronic Surveillance System for the Early Notification of Community-Based Epidemics)”. (Lombardo et al., 2003, p. i39). The system ESSENCE uses algorithms to evaluate International Classification of Diseases, 9th Revision (ICD-9) diagnosis codes retrieved from outpatient and emergency room visits. These codes are collected into pattern groups to monitor emerging threats to human health which includes acts of terrorism, accidental environment exposures and disease outbreaks.
Previous years used a system referred to as BioWatch which was designed by the Federal Government in 2001. This system was used to detect biological aerosol attacks by analyzing the release of pathogens in air samples. This program was instituted due to an increased number of bioterrorism threats. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed the warning network of sensors to detect biological attacks. Any results from BioWatch would be analyzed by the CDC and passed along to the FBI for further evaluation. BioWatch has become obsolete, causing a high number of false positives. This high rate of false positives did not alert safety measures or evaluations deeming the program a failure. Development of a third generation of BioWatch technology (Gen-3) has been proposed. This technology will reduce the time in recognizing the presence of five biological agents within the air simultaneously. (Jenkins, 2012, p 1).
Preparedness and Further Research

Bio-surveillance technology is successfully using prediction tools and complex algorithms to detect and interpret surveillance data. This technology is important to national security however the economic benefits must outweigh the false alerts and negatives to continue to protect communities from harmful pathogens. Further research can include the remotely monitoring of human, animal and plant health status. The space program had developed remote monitoring, to monitor vital functions through image analysis. Bio-surveillance technology should also incorporate communication within local and state governmental agencies to allow access of electronic reporting of health information to social media to facilitate rapid information sharing both globally and domestic. Linking syndromic data to patient triage notes and medical charts would significantly increase the value of bio-surveillance techniques in the event of an outbreak and reduce the burden of the investigation by the health department staff. A fast and diagnostic test can be developed that can identify infected individuals to isolate contagious people from healthy individuals.


Bio-surveillance technology was developed to protecting the health and safety of Americans. There is an imperative need to continue to develop fast and reliable awareness on emerging risks. The future of bio-surveillance depends on a variety of factors which include population growth, globalization of travel and bioterrorism. Presently, syndromic surveillance systems have been considered more of a concern than a benefit suggesting that this technology has the ability to direct terrorists to attack other cities without protection and awareness.
Syndromic surveillance systems such as Essence and BioWatch were designed to provide early warning systems of potential catastrophic events. Maintenance needs to be reoccurring on these systems to demonstrate a clear evaluation of environmental threat detections to determine continued utilization. As of right now, the rate of failure has been proven to be unreliable and is causing the instrumentation of the technologies to rise, but in due time technology will catch up to the needs of bio-surveillance. With our most innovative adversary, the Russian Federation repeatedly violating the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), the United States must be prepared to defend the American people against their alleged offensive biological weapons program. Since the BWC considers it a violation for any nation to have an offensive bio-weapons program, the United States must be prepared to mitigate attacks from biological strains that were developed by the Russia Federation and the former Soviet Union which could be utilized by both state and non-state actors on their behalf.


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