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Crop Biotech Update

Wheat Gene Confers Stem Rust Resistance to Barley

August 19, 2020

The John Innes Centre has used genetic modification (GM) techniques to fortify barley plants with genes proven to have defensive activity in wheat. This successful transfer is seen as a model for future efforts to protect crops against the growing threat of virulent fungal pathogens.

While wheat has 82 stem rust resistance genes, barley only has 10. Research efforts to transfer this genetic resistance from one commercially valuable member of the grass family to the other using traditional crossing have proved unsuccessful. Dr. Brande Wulff's research group used transgenic barley plants to test the functionality of four cloned stem rust genes from wheat. Their results showed that the transgenic barley plants appeared more resistant to stem rust than barley plants with endogenous resistance genes that have evolved within the crop.

By using techniques not available through traditional breeding, Dr. Wulff said that their research is a clear signal to policymakers of the need to use modern precision breeding techniques such as GM and gene editing in the field of crop protection. "This will offer more control over how such resistance genes are deployed including ensuring that they are deployed in stacks that maximize the durability of this precious genetic resource," he said.

For more details, read the article in the John Innes Centre website.

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