A 21-day national training programme on “Microbial diversity and gene prospecting through metagenomics”, held at the Kerala Agricultural University (KAU), called for using metagenomics to identify cause of root wilt disease.

Metagenomics is the study of metagenomes, genetic material recovered directly from environmental samples.

Presiding over the valedictory function of the programme on Tuesday, P.V. Balachandran, Director of Extension, KAU, said that root wilt disease had been plaguing the State for more than a century.

“The possible causes of this disease could be unidentified microbes.

Metagenomics being a new and fast developing branch of science might help identify the microbes.

Experts in this field should take up the challenge,” he said.

The programme was hosted by the Department of Microbiology of KAU’s College of Horticulture and sponsored by the Union Department of Biotechnology. Delegates from different universities and research and development institutions were given hands on training in metagenomics.

Metagenomics has helped control of certain plant pathogenic bacteria. Studies done on human microbiome have shown that the composition of the intestinal microbiome possibly is correlated with obesity and inflammatory bowel disease in adults, and may be associated with neonatal necrotizing enterocolitis in premature infants.

P. K. Valasalakumari, Associate Dean, D. Girija, course director, and Murali Gopal, scientist, spoke.