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bacteria

Employing Wheat's Bacterial Partners to Fight a Pathogen

Fusarium head blight is a devastating fungal disease affecting wheat and barley crops worldwide. According to the American Phytopathological Society, this disease has cost U.S. wheat and barley farmers more than $3 billion since 1990. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists, together with land managers and other scientists at research universities, are taking a variety of approaches to solving this problem. These include breeding resistant cultivars, using massive disease-forecasting models and applying fungicides during critical junctures in crop growth to prevent fusarium head blight. Recently, many scientists have also become interested in the idea of employing microbial species that already live on and inside crop plants to do the dirty work of controlling disease epidemics.

Millions of Americans with Dirty Hands Are Spreading Dangerous Bacteria

Have you ever seen someone handling food in a way that you would never do yourself? Maybe they were preparing raw poultry and then immediately handled lettuce without washing their hands. Or maybe they did wash their hands, but they dried them by wiping them on their pants. You would never do that, right? Then again, maybe there are things we all do that might increase our risk for foodborne illness.

Give Yourself a Hand!

“Clean vs. dirty” is a concept that seems easy enough to understand. You know your jeans are dirty when they get grass stains on them, because you can easily see the stains. Seeing bacteria on your food is a different story. All foodborne bacteria are microscopic and can’t be seen with the naked eye, making it difficult to know if your foods have been cross-contaminated. Bacteria may come into contact with our foods from contaminated cooking equipment, utensils and even our hands. According to the 2016 FDA Food Safety Survey (PDF, 530 KB) Americans are doing well to prevent cross contamination from some common sources, but not all.