Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists Identify Gene for Resistance to Parasitic 'Witchweed'

31.08.2009
The parasitic flowering plant Striga, or "witchweed," attacks the roots of host plants, draining needed water and nutrients and leaving them unable to grow and produce any grains. Witchweed is endemic throughout sub-Saharan Africa, causing crop losses that surpass hundreds of millions of dollars annually and exacerbating food shortages in the region.

Among the crops heavily parasitized by witchweed is black-eyed pea, known in Africa as "cowpea" or "niebe" in Francophone countries.

About 80 percent of the world's cowpea crop is grown in sub-Saharan Africa, mostly by subsistence farmers who lack the resources to purchase expensive herbicides and fertilizers. In this region, cowpea is the primary protein source for millions of people, who consume the entire plant – the pea for soups, stews and breads, the leaves as fresh greens, the stems as hay and fodder for cattle.

As the use of cowpea expanded over time, so did the prevalence of Striga gesnerioides, the type of witchweed adapted to parasitize it. Today, witchweed is so virulent that farmers in this semi-arid region must relocate their cowpea crop to new soil every few years.

Now, scientists at the University of Virginia have identified a gene in cowpea that confers resistance to witchweed attack. This discovery will help researchers better understand how some plants can resist Striga, while others, such as corn and sorghum, are susceptible.

The findings are presented in the Aug. 28 issue of the journal Science.

"Discovery of this resistance gene is not only important for improving cowpea, but may help us develop strategies for improving resistance to Striga in other affected crops," said Michael P.Timko, the U.Va. biology professor who led the study.

Currently there are no natural sources of Striga resistance in corn or sorghum, both of which are major cereal grains in the African diet.

"Making plants durably resistant to Striga could have a significant impact on food security for Africa," Timko said.

In recent years, he and other scientists have sequenced the cowpea genome and are using this information to develop cowpea plants with multiple improved agronomic traits.

"It is now possible for us to identify all possible genes for Striga resistance in cowpeas, as well as resistance to other cowpea pathogens," Timko said. "We may even eventually breed a more drought-resistant plant and varieties that have higher levels and a better balance of nutrients. We've reached a point where we can manipulate this plant for the good of millions of people."

Timko's approach is to improve the performance of plants by identifying genes that control key characteristics, and then using selective breeding to emphasize those traits.

While he is finding success breeding parasite-resistant hybrids, there are at least seven different races of Striga, each capable of adapting to changing varieties of cowpeas.

"We are trying to create a plant that is resistant across the board," he said. "Striga is hyper-virulent. This is warfare between the cowpea plant and its parasite, and we keep trying to stay ahead of the enemy."

Michael P. Timko, principal investigator
434-982-5817
mpt9g@virginia.edu

Michael P. Timko | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.virginia.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute

nachricht Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>