Harnessing Chemical Ecology for Environment-Friendly Crop Protection

Seogchan Kang, Rhea Lumactud, Ningxiao Li, Terrence H. Bell, Hye Seon Kim, Sook Young Park, Yong Hwan Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Heavy reliance on synthetic pesticides for crop protection has become increasingly unsustainable, calling for robust alternative strategies that do not degrade the environment and vital ecosystem services. There are numerous reports of successful disease control by various microbes used in small-scale trials. However, inconsistent efficacy has hampered their large-scale application. A better understanding of how beneficial microbes interact with plants, other microbes, and the environment and which factors affect disease control efficacy is crucial to deploy microbial agents as effective and reliable pesticide alternatives. Diverse metabolites produced by plants and microbes participate in pathogenesis and defense, regulate the growth and development of themselves and neighboring organisms, help maintain cellular homeostasis under various environmental conditions, and affect the assembly and activity of plant and soil microbiomes. However, research on the metabolites associated with plant health-related processes, except antibiotics, has not received adequate attention. This review highlights several classes of metabolites known or suspected to affect plant health, focusing on those associated with biocontrol and belowground plant–microbe and microbe–microbe interactions. The review also describes how new insights from systematic explorations of the diversity and mechanism of action of bioactive metabolites can be harnessed to develop novel crop protection strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1697-1710
Number of pages14
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Plant Science


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