www.checkbiotech.org ; www.raupp.info ; www.czu.cz
Plants are ravaged by hundreds of diseases causes by fungi, bacteria, and
viruses. Such diseases can wipe out entire harvests of important crops - in
fact, it has been estimated that about 40% of all crop destruction can be
directly attributed to plant diseases. The reliance on chemical solutions to
such diseases has also resulted in resistant microorganisms, October 2005.
Genetic enhancement of agriculturally important crops is one of the tools
which may be used in protecting plants from these dangerous diseases.
Scientists are currently in the process of looking for broad-spectrum
disease resistance, where a single plant can be engineered to be resistant
to a good number of bacterial and fungal pathogens.
Santosh Misra documents these efforts in ?Engineering Broad-Spectrum Disease
Resistance,? published in the latest issue of Information Systems for
Biotechnology. The technologies developed by Misra and her colleagues are
based on engineering antimicrobial peptides into plants.
Such peptides include a class of potent, natural antibiotics which Misra's
colleagues have used to engineer broad-spectrum disease resistance in
potato, protecting it from late blight and pink rot, as well as some post
harvest pests. These engineered potatoes could be stored for over 27 months
and still remain fresh.
Researchers are now working on probiotic-enhanced wheat and barley. Both
crops should be resistant to Fusarium Head Blight, whose pathogen, a fungus,
is toxic even to humans. The mycotoxin is one among many which contaminate
staple crops such as corn, tree nuts, peanuts, and sorghum.
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