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Crop Biotech Update

Scientists Discover Nematode Resistant Wheat

May 29, 2013

Scientists from the University of California Davis have identified nematode resistant wheat that can benefit crops such as tomato plants. Root-knot nematodes cause crop losses around the world and can be difficult to control. In order to reproduce, the parasites need to infect a living plant root. Trap crops—unsuitable hosts that "trick" the nematodes into starting their life cycle but then prevent them from reproducing—are often a better option than leaving the field fallow.

This prompted the UC Davis scientists to look for crops that are resistant to nematode. The researchers had tried a number of different rotation crops before turning to wheat where they transferred a small segment of genes from a certain wheat strain to another wheat strain called Lassik. This made the wheat resistant to nematodes.

Upon confirming the resistance of Lassik wheat to nematodes, the research team validated the source of the resistance by comparing pairs of strains with and without the relocated segment. Then to determine if rotating the resistant wheat with tomato plants would help protect the tomatoes, the authors grew Lassik wheat and used some of the soil to plant tomato seedlings. The wheat had the effect they were hoping for—the tomatoes grown in soil from the resistant wheat plots were less damaged by nematodes.

For more information, see UC Davis' news release at http://caes.ucdavis.edu/NewsEvents/web-news/2013/05/nematode-resistant-wheat-can-protect-tomatoes.