Biotech Updates

Scientists Use Fluorescent Genes to Trace Honey Fungus

December 3, 2010

Scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Bristol used genetic engineering to study how the pathogenic honey fungus (Armillaria mellea)  enters and spreads through plants. They utilized Agrobacterium to introduce DNA with fluorescent genes to the fungus before being planted out.

The honey fungus causes a destructive disease that decreases the production of orchard or vine crops. Control of the fungus was difficult because the most effective pesticide (methyl bromide) has been banned due to its harmful effects on the ozone layer.

Dr. Kendra Baumgartner, a specialist in vine and tree crop diseases from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said, "Efforts are already under way to identify rootstocks of grapes, walnuts, and stone fruits that are naturally resistant to infection. The improved screening that is enabled by using transformed strains of Armillaria should allow more rapid identification of resistant plant materials."

Results of this study will be used in developing control measure that prevent or minimize the spread of the disease.

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