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Brett Younginger, postdoctoral researcher at Washington State University, discusses the fascinating research into plant tissue and diversity.

As a postdoctoral researcher, Younginger is interested in investigating the diversity and function of fungal endophytes, fungi that live in plant tissue without causing any symptoms of disease.

Younginger talks about his interest in plants, his background, and his current focus. As a lifetime lover of plants, Younginger was fascinated with farming and the natural world. Starting with an undergraduate degree in biology, he advanced his study to plant microbial symbiosis. Younginger explains the areas of research they delve into currently, studying the symbiotic relationships some plants have with bacteria in the soil in which they grow. Remarkably, plants they study are able to convert nitrogen in the atmosphere into a plant useable form—essentially fertilizer.

Younginger describes his work with fungal endophytes, and the bacterial issues he is researching. The postdoctoral researcher explains how nitrogen is dispersed when it is deposited in the soil. Continuing, he talks about ‘partner choice’ the process that plants and bacteria undergo in order to associate with different strains of nitrogen-fixing bacteria.

Younginger explains how communities exist within the soil, and how nodules vary in size and shape, with variations in position and the bacteria that is present. Root nodules, specifically, are located on the roots of plants, mostly legumes, that form a coordinated symbiosis with nitrogen-fixing bacteria, and with the precise nitrogen-limiting conditions, some plants can form a symbiotic relationship with host-specific strains of certain bacteria.

Additionally, Younginger describes how applied science works in a practical sense. As Younginger explains, he is most interested in the processes that impact the patterns we see occurring in nature. And as new knowledge is gathered, Younginger hopes to see more progress toward combatting critical soil erosion and water pollution problems.


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