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Crop Biotech Update

Scientists Say Modern Biotech Tools Beneficial for West Africa's Yam Industry

July 28, 2021

Yam is a very important crop in Africa but its industry is continuously threatened by fungal diseases that cause 50-90% of tuber yield loss. To help address this, scientists came up with a review that details the potentials of modern biotechnology tools to produce fungus-resistant cultivars without having to undergo the stringent process of traditional breeding.

Yam anthracnose caused by Colletotrichum alatae is a devastating fungal disease in West Africa. It affects all plant parts of the yam at all stages of development. Although traditional methods are used by farmers to control the disease, they still fail at providing long-term control. This along with the appearance of new and more virulent strains makes the development of improved varieties with broad-spectrum and durable resistance critical.

In their review, the researchers from Kenya and Nigeria found evidence that the development of reliable anthracnose-resistant varieties through conventional breeding using different germplasms from Asia and the adoption of genome-assisted breeding and modern biotechnology tools will swiftly help the production of anthracnose-resistance yam varieties. Anthracnose-resistant yam cultivars, on the other hand, can be developed using robust genetic transformation protocol and in planta transformation techniques, and the agroinfiltration protocols using a viral vector-based platform. Lastly, having the yam's whole-genome sequence information will allow the identification and editing of the S gene conferring resistance to fungal pathogens. The advancement of these technologies can help facilitate the production of anthracnose-resistant yam cultivars which can lead to food security and income generation for yam farmers in West Africa.

Read the full review in Molecular Plant Pathology.

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