Crop Biotech Update

ARS Scientists Identify Key Gene in Wheat to Help Resist Fusarium Head Blight

June 13, 2019

Scientists from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) led by plant molecular geneticist Guihua Bai have identified a key gene that could be used as an important genetic resource by wheat breeders worldwide to address the constant challenge posed by Fusarium head blight (FHB). Also known as scab, FHB has caused an estimated US$2.7 billion in losses, in the state of Minnesota alone since the 1990s, and forced many wheat and barley farmers there into bankruptcy. 

FHB thrives in warm and moist conditions and is now an increasing threat worldwide due to unpredictable weather patterns brought on by climate change. Bai and his colleagues showed that the gene TaHRC plays a key role in conferring wheat resistance to FHB. The researchers confirmed the role played by the TaHRC gene by "switching it off," which modified the production of key proteins and significantly increased FHB resistance. 

For more details, read the ARS news release.