Abstract

Plants are exposed to various pathogens in their environment and have developed immune systems with multiple layers of defence to fight-back. However, often pathogens overcome the resistance barriers, infect the plants to cause the disease. Pathogens that cause diseases on economically important crop plants like strawberry incur huge losses to the agriculture industry. For example, The 2016 outbreak of strawberry grey mould (Botrytis cinerea) in Norway caused up to 95% crop losses. Outbreaks like this underline the importance of developing novel and sustainable tools to combat plant diseases, for example by increasing the plants’ natural disease resistance. Priming plant defences using chemical elicitors may be effective in providing the enhanced resistance against multiple pathogens. We have used β-aminobutyric acid (BABA) as a chemical priming agent to induce resistance in Fragaria vesca against Botrytis cinerea. Effects of BABA on disease progression and defence responses of Fragaria are being characterized using molecular tools like RNAseq, RT-PCR and ChIP. As priming chemicals may induce an epigenetic memory in treated plants, we also plan to study the histone methylation patterns in primed plants and the genes that are regulated. Our long-term aim is to understand the duration of the epigenetic memory and its cross-generational transmission to the progeny in Fragaria. Our results will help guide various crop protection strategies in addition to providing new insights to develop novel tools for plant disease management.