Crop Biotech Update

Scientists to Control Leaf Blotch Disease in Wheat

February 11, 2015

Scientists discovered a genetic mechanism that could stop the spread of Septoria leaf blotch (STB), a devastating fungal disease affecting wheat fields in Europe. A key feature of STB is the long symptomless growth of the fungus called Zymoseptoria tritici, which affects the host plant's cells before it switches to the visible disease phase that eventually destroys the plant's leaves.

Researchers from Durham University, and their partners from Newcastle University and Rothamsted Research found that a wheat protein, TaR1, was key in enabling Z. tritici to maintain this symptomless growth. The researchers found that they could activate earlier a wheat plant's defense by manipulating TaR1 protein levels, either by conventional breeding or genetic modification. Early activation of the plant's defense means that symptoms of the disease are displayed at an earlier stage when the fungus does not have the capacity to spread any further. This potentially allows for more effective control of the disease, the researchers added.

For more details, read the news release at http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/news/food-security/2015/150205-pr-controlling-leaf-blotch-disease-in-wheat.aspx.