Master Gardener Spring Seminar

From the Speakers’ Bios: “Dr Marion Brodhagen is a former farm girl who has never lost her interest in agriculture. She teaches at Western Washington U in microbiology, molecular biology and cellular biology. Trained a a molecular plant pathologist she is better at killing plants than growing them! She does research in the chemical communication that occurs between plants and microbes (both good ones and bad ones). She is learning to tango, writes poetry and kayaks whenever she has the chance.”

That preface didn’t at all prepare us for the amazing and hilarious hour that was to come. Chemical talking between species is unbelievable! For example, did you know that there is a mucousy phase around all the root hairs of a plant the the plant secretes itself. And into that phase the root hairs leak specific sugars and amino acids that attract beneficial organisms which then take up all the available space making it inhospitable to pathogens.

Here’s another tidbit. We all know that clover is a legume, and legumes are Nitrogen fixing plants, right? Wrong. It’s the bacteria that the clover attracts that does the N-fixing. The clover secretes flavonoids which are “come hither” chemicals that attract the N-fixing bacteria. The bacteria then coat themselves in a friendly sugar that the clover recognizes as something it needs, and invites them in. The bacteria literally invade the roots of the clover and the clover is so happy about it that it forms a protective covering around the rapidly growing colony of bacteria. Those are the nodules you see at the end of roots when you pull up a legume plant.

Rhizobium-infected roots

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