Biotech Updates

KSU Researchers to Study Wheat Blast Fungus

January 16, 2009

Kansas State University (KSU) has received a US$ 1 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture to keep the wheat crops in the state blast fungus-free. The wheat blast fungus is a close relative of a devastating fungus that has long affected rice crops and another fungus that affects turf grass across the country. In the mid-1980s a close relative of these fungi began affecting wheat in and around Brazil, explained Barbara Valent, KSU professor of plant pathology. Although the fungus hasn’t moved north from South America, the scientists are gearing up. Better be prepared than sorry, they say.

Valent said the project comprises three areas, the first of which is sequencing the fungus's genome to find genome fragments specific to the wheat blast pathogen. This would help in the creation of diagnostic tools that field specialists can use in the field to identify wheat blast. Valent and her team will also be searching the K-State Wheat Genetic and Genomic Resource Center, which houses some 2,500 wheat accessions, for varieties resistant to the blast fungus.

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