Title : Biodiscovery of secondary metabolites from beneficial microbes for potential application against oil palm pests & diseases using metabolomics approach
Oil palm is the primary industry leader amongst crop commodities in Malaysia. However, despite the rapid growth of the industry, oil palm remains prone to threats by a variety of pests such as insects, vertebrates and plant diseases. Basal stem rot (BSR), caused by Ganoderma spp., is the most devastating oil palm disease throughout Malaysia. The estimated yield loss due to BSR disease can reach up to RM 2.5 billion a year. Interestingly, despite the immense Ganoderma research studies that have been conducted in the country, we have yet to find a definitive treatment towards controlling the disease. With this view, we need to tackle a different approach and explore new research possibilities. Beneficial microbes have a prolific history in providing us a diversity of clinical and pharmaceutical drugs for human use. With this understanding, we can now venture into a similar approach by exploring the diversity of natural products from microbes through the use of metabolomics. These natural products are the results from the behavioural characteristics of a specific microorganism in response to a specific environmental condition. The specific behavioural characteristics can be stimulated with the induction of specific markers or components from the target pest or fungal pathogen. In this study, we focused on the use of a known prolific secondary metabolite producer, Trichoderma asperellum strain, and its capability to produce a diversity of metabolite profiles based on different sets of culture conditions and analyzes its data via metabolomics platforms. Results have shown that T. asperellum metabolite profiles significantly changed when the culture conditions are stimulated with different isolates of Ganoderma boninense collected from different parts of Malaysia. This observation is crucial to not only discover potential bioactive metabolites that are produced by T. asperellum in response to G. boninense attack, but also potentially to develop a profile algorithm for early G. boninense detection in the field. In summary, using the metabolomics approach, we can potentially discover unlimited knowledge of chemical diversities that can exist in biocontrol microbes in order to successfully develop a natural product that could be active against various pests and diseases. Furthermore, this knowledge can also provide an extensive framework for subsequent studies relating to the development of potential early disease detection diagnostic tool based on metabolite markers that can be useful for the control and management of oil palm diseases, particularly BSR disease.
Take Away Notes:
• Metabolomics is an expanding area in the “omics” field and many biotechnology and systems biology industries have implemented this approach to tackle various issues and problems relating to early disease detection, omics breeding, phenotypic strain studies and development of a biosensor platform. Our study can help bridge this knowledge of applying fundamental omics study into full-scale application into the oil palm industry, by developing the necessary tools to determine the potential of natural products from beneficial microbes. • This omics approach can assist major industry players and university academics to implement fundamental knowledge into full-scale application in the oil palm plantation.
• It can assist in the early disease detection of Basal Stem Rot in oil palm plantation. We can help detect metabolite markers to provide a practical solution for early disease diagnosis and help simplify the detection method. This is because there is currently no early disease detection tool for this particular disease and no current effective method for cure. This allows the plantation management to make preventive measures and decisions early on before the onset of the disease. This would eventually save millions of dollars from economic damage from Ganoderma disease annually.
• This approach would complement well with the current disease control practices and allows it to be integrated into the Integrated Pest/Disease Management (IPM) procedures. The use of this early detection tool and the discovery of potential compounds from beneficial microbes using this metabolomics method would facilitate a more rapid control measures and complements with the current practice of applying biofertilizers and a tolerant planting materials that are already in practice.