• newswise-fullscreen The future of plant disease management

    Credit: Credit: SV Fisk

    Studying the DNA of plants, as well as bacteria, have led to disease-resistant crops. Shown, a crop breeder putting tubes of extracted plant DNA into a centrifuge for concentration.

Newswise — Apr. 8, 2019 – Crop diseases can ravage growers’ fields, resulting in less food for the worlds’ tables. The Apr. 7 Sustainable, Secure Food blog describes progress in plant breeding techniques that bring more efficient solutions to growers.

“Plant scientists are looking for ways to help plants withstand infection. One of the best ways is to find plants that seem to have their own resistance,” writes Audrey Kalil, a plant pathologist at North Dakota State University. “These are the plants that are still in the field after others have died, or that yield well when others can’t.”

However, successful breeding from these plants, once identified, can take a decade or more. That means more years of crop devastation in the interim.

Kalil explains a technique crop breeders can use in this battle: CRISPR, or clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats. “That is a very complicated name for something that was found as a ‘coping mechanism’ by bacteria. CRISPR is an approach that doesn’t require the addition of foreign DNA to a plant. It simply makes a small cut in the plant genome which will provide big benefits. It is also faster, less expensive and easier to use than older genetic engineering techniques.”

“This results in a plant that lacks the targeted susceptibility gene and thus is resistant to disease. Breeders can then start their process—already armed with a ready-made disease resistant plant. Thus, using CRISPR greatly speeds up the process to generate disease resistant crops.”

“The challenges to our food supply are great,” Kalil says. “Besides droughts, heat, cold, and all the other stresses our crops must cope with, there is also disease. New techniques, like CRISPR, can help us look forward to a future of more abundant, more sustainably-grown food. “

To read the complete blog, visit Sustainable, Secure Food at https://sustainable-secure-food-blog.com/2019/04/07/the-future-of-plant-disease-management.

This blog is sponsored and written by members of the American Society of Agronomy and Crop Science Society of America. Our members are researchers and trained, certified professionals in the areas of growing our world’s food supply, while protecting our environment. They work at universities, government research facilities, and private businesses across the United States and the world.

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