Biotech Updates

Combating Global Fungi Disease that Threatens Food Supply and Forests

April 15, 2011

Wheat rusts have been regarded as the most devastating disease that attack and damage plants and trees that leads to an estimated loss of $200 million a year in cereal crops in Canada. The pathogen is able to move from one country to another and could easily adapt to the efforts made to control them.

Using genomics, University of British Colombia researcher Dr. Richard Hamelin and Dr. Guus Bakkeren of the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada strive to learn more about the molecular and genetic interactions between rust and their host plants and trees. Different wheat and polar tree varieties will be infected with various rust fungi strains and will use genome sequencing technologies to identify and compare the activated genes. The genes will be used in devising screening tools for the rapid development of resistant trees and crops.

"Since WWII, breeders have been working on rust resistance, but with genomics we can examine all the genetic information of these rust fungi. This speeds up our understanding of how they interact with host resistance genes and how we might be able to fight them off," says Dr. Bakkeren.

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