About this Research Topic
The year 2020 has been acknowledged as the International Year of Plant Health by The United Nations General Assembly. This landmark provides an excellent occasion to present the most recent advances in Plant Nematology research. Plant-parasitic nematodes (PPNs) are major threats to plant health and, consequently, global food security. PPNs are often underestimated due to their silent mode of action that may be confused with other plant pathogens. However, PPNs are responsible for serious economic damage by yield losses of important crops, as well as ornamentals and forest trees.
PPNs can feed on all plant parts (e.g. root, stems, leaves) by the use of a specialized structure, the stylet. The stylet perforates the plant cell wall, allowing the nematode to withdraw the cell contents and secrete a suite of proteins (called effectors), most of which are parasitism-related. These effectors are mainly produced in the esophageal gland cells of the nematodes and, once delivered, interact with plant proteins (e.g. receptors or intermediates) either in the apoplast or inside cells, which triggers and manipulates host cellular processes to their benefit. Extensive work using multiple-omics is shedding light on the puzzling mechanisms underpinning PPN parasitism. All approaches can provide valuable contributions to the application of novel and sustainable nematode control strategies and solutions to mitigate the damage to crops.
An interesting aspect of PPN biology relates to their interaction with other organisms (e.g. soil and plant microbes). Several studies have shown that PPNs may acquire key parasitic genes (e.g. cell-wall degrading enzymes) through horizontal gene transfer from rhizobacteria. PPN endosymbionts appear to be major contributors to nematode nutrition, protection against other predators or pathogens, and even to their virulence. Alternatively, soil and plant microbiomes are also suggested to be involved in the suppression of PPN, offering natural approaches for their control. In this sense, the use of novel control strategies is underdeveloped. It is urgent to find new control strategies with respect to the environment and using the soil ecosystem to keep PPN levels under damaging thresholds. This scenario is aggravated by the withdrawal of many chemical control compounds nowadays and in the future.
The most common practices for nematode control include crop rotation, plant breeding, and application of chemical nematicides, being the latest restricted due to environmental and human health impact. More than ever, novel biotechnological tools are allies in the mitigation of the damage caused by PPN.
This Research Topic welcomes Review, Opinion, and Original Research articles that provide new insights into Integrative Approaches for Sustainable PPN Control. Research papers will focus on the fundamental knowledge of the molecular mechanisms behind PPN parasitism, which may contribute to the development of novel biotechnological tools for nematode control. Additionally, we welcome applied research on the use of antagonistic microbes (e.g. plant growth-promoting bacteria, endophytic bacteria, or fungi), naturally produced compounds (e.g. plant-derived metabolites), or eco-friendly synthetic compounds for control, as well as plant breeding research for resistance against PPN.
Keywords: Plant-parasitic nematodes, Plant-nematode interactions, Nematode-microbe interactions, Sustainable agriculture, Biocontrol, Breeding
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