Biotech Updates

Scientists Work on Resistance of Corn to Leaf Blight

February 4, 2011

Since the genome of corn has been sequenced in 2009, scientists have been finding ways to improve the crop, especially its resistance to disease. USDA scientists Jim Holland and Peter Balint-Kurti are currently looking for genes linked to blight resistance such as for Southern leaf blight which is the culprit of the 1972 epidemic that brought about a loss of 710 million bushels. Balint-Kurti found 50 different parts of the corn's genetic sequence that are involved in the resistance to Southern leaf blight.

"I work on corn because the USDA recognized that it's the most important crop in this country," Holland said. "From a federal perspective, we need to be working on things of economic importance."

"It appears that a bunch of genes are involved in disease resistance, and now we need to understand better how these genes work to increase resistance," Balint-Kurti said.

Once their research becomes successful, the findings will be transformed into benefits for farmers and consumers.

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