Biotech Updates

ARS Finds PEMV-Resistant Pea Lines

December 4, 2009

Researchers at the US Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) have identified four pea breeding lines resistant to the dreaded pea enation mosaic virus (PEMV). The virus is transmitted to peas, as well as to chickpeas and other legumes, by aphid feeding. Chemical control of aphids however is often ineffective in controlling the virus.

The researchers are now developing PEMV-resistant commercial pea varieties from the breeding lines. According to the ARS, there are no PEMV-resistant dry pea cultivars. The few fresh pea cultivars that are resistant all contain the same single dominant gene, the En gene, for resistance. Researchers worry that the virus could quickly evolve virulent new forms to overcome the resistance gene.

The ARS researchers found in trials that the PEMV-resistant lines tolerate the virus' presence, even at high concentrations, without sustaining significant damage, loss of growth or seed yield. Because of this plant- pathogen "truce," PEMV may be less apt to turn more virulent than it would with resistant varieties, the ARS said.

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