Scientists at the John Innes Centre (JIC) and The Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL) announced that they have pioneered a new gene-detecting technology which, if deployed correctly, could lead to the creation of a new elite variety of wheat with durable resistance to disease.
Working with fellow scientists at TSL, Brande Wulff from the JIC developed a new technology called ‘MutRenSeq’ which accurately pinpoints the location of disease resistance genes in large plant genomes and which has reduced the time it takes to clone these genes in wheat from five to 10 years down to just two. Effective use of these resistance genes in wheat could increase global yields and vastly reduce the need for agro-chemical applications. A resistance gene acts like a simple lock keeping the pathogen from infecting the plant. Over time, as many breeders and growers have found, pathogens can adapt to overcome an individual resistance gene and infect the plant. A stack of multiple genes acts like a multi-lever lock, making it much harder for new pathogens to evade the crop’s defenses.
“The challenge has always been finding enough resistance genes to create an effective multi-gene ‘stack’ against virulent pathogens like wheat stem rust and wheat yellow rust which, if left unchallenged, can decimate crops across the world. With the advent of this new technology, the development of a new variety of wheat with strong resistance to one or more of these pathogens is now within reach,” Wulff said.