Parasitic plant nematodes are pests which parasitize the roots of agricultural crops, leading to the formation of nests called ‘galls’. These galls deprive the plants of nutrition, ultimately leading to its death or reduced yield. These nematodes have no basic countermeasures, and need the application of pesticides or development of resistant plant varieties. Agricultural damage owing to nematodes is increasing worldwide.
Researchers from Japan designed an experiment using Arabidopsis thaliana (a weed) to evaluate its reaction to being parasitize by nematodes. They found that when a parasitic nematode infests a plant, the plant’s stem cells get abnormally activated to form galls on their roots. The activity of stem cells which remained under control in normal conditions, got out-of-control upon parasitic infection.
To verify their statement, they stained the stem cells blue, and monitored the plants from the start of nematode infection till gall formation. They found the blue stain spreading with root growth, confirming the seizing of stem cells’ control mechanism by nematodes.
This finding is expected to help improvise crop breeds in the future to eradicate nematode damage, which infers an annual damage of crops worth hundreds of billions of dollars worldwide.