Biotech Updates

TSL Scientists to Explore Genetics to Combat New Crop Diseases

November 25, 2011

Scientists are anticipating new and more virulent crop diseases due to climate change. Thus, researchers at the John Innes Centre and The Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL) in United Kingdom are conducting scientific investigations about the impact of temperature on pathogens, plants, and the interaction between the two. Their goal is to find new sources of resistance from the relatives of important crops.

"Wild plants can harbor powerful resistance to crop diseases," said Dr. Brande Wulff from TSL.

One of the interesting yet insignificant-looking wild plants that they are studying is called Sharon goatgrass (Aegilops sharonensis). It thrives on coastal plains in Israel and South Lebanon and many populations are nearing extinction. This grass captured the interest of the scientists because of its resistance to Ug99, a stem rust fungus that could infect 80-90 percent of wheat varieties globally.

"The ultimate step, four or five years from now, is to isolate these genes, take them out with the molecular tweezers and put them into locally-adapted high-yielding bread wheat…We hope to create a formidable obstacle to the pathogen," explained Dr. Wulff.

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