Worm pheromones could offer an innovative and eco-friendly way to help crops protect themselves from pests and disease.
The research was carried out by a team from Boyce Thompson Institute, who isolated the roundworm metabolite ascr#18, a pheromone used by worms to communicate. When compared to control groups, four different crop plants treated with a small application of the compound to their soil proved much more successful at fending off viruses, bacteria, fungus and water mold. As Professor Frank Schroeder explained, “Plant roots are constantly exposed to roundworms in the soil, so it makes sense that plants have evolved to sense the pest and prime their immune systems in anticipation of being attacked.”
The technology is being commercialized as Phytalix through the startup Ascribe Bioscience.