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Crop Biotech Update

Texas AgriLife Makes Breakthrough in Fight Against Plant Diseases

November 18, 2020
Sonia Irigoyen, Ph.D., and Manikandan Ramasamy, Ph.D., co-authors of the study working in the lab. Photo Source: Texas A&M AgriLife

Researchers from Texas A&M AgriLife have made a discovery that will help fight fastidious pathogens costing U.S. agriculture billions of dollars annually. For years, research scientist and associate professor Dr. Kranthi Mandadi and his colleagues at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension in Weslaco have been working on developing new biological technologies to fight fastidious or "unculturable" pathogens. Now they have developed a new screening method to expedite solutions for citrus greening and other ‘fastidious' diseases.

Fastidious plant pathogens infect citrus, tomatoes, potatoes, grapes, peppers, and other crops. They are often transmitted by insect vectors and cause billions of dollars of damage each year. Examples of these diseases are citrus greening and Pierce's Disease in grapes, the No.1 threat to the $1 billion wine industry in Texas.

The breakthrough came in the form of the "hairy root" system, a technology that uses the pathogen-infected host tissues to produce so-called hairy roots that can serve as biological vessels for the propagation of these pathogens in the laboratory. Microbial hairy roots appear similar to normal root tissues that develop from the plant and mimic a bacterium's natural environment, allowing the growth of the fastidious pathogens in controlled laboratory conditions. Hairy root cultures are easy to produce in the laboratory, are at least four times faster than conventional screening methods, and are scalable.

For more details, read the article in AgriLife Today.

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