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posted by martyb on Thursday February 20 2020, @05:03AM   Printer-friendly
from the teeny-weeny-little-bandaids® dept.

A team of researchers at the University of Toronto has successfully tested a new strategy for identifying genetic resources critical for the ongoing battle against plant pathogens such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses that infect and destroy food crops worldwide.

"As much as 40 per cent of global crop yield annually is lost to pests and pathogens such as bacteria, viruses and other disease-causing microorganisms," said David Guttman, a professor in the Department of Cell & Systems Biology (CSB) at the University of Toronto and co-author of a study published in Science. "In Canada, pathogens of the top five crops cause annual losses of approximately CDN $3.2B, even with no significant outbreaks."

[...] "Effectors play key roles in disease since they evolved to enhance the ability of pathogens to attack and infect their hosts. Fortunately, plants have evolved counter-defenses in the form of immune receptors that can recognize certain effectors," said Desveaux. "A plant is able to mount an 'effector-triggered' immune response that usually stops the infection, if it carries a specific immune receptor that recognizes a specific pathogen effector. This effector-receptor interaction has been called gene-for-gene resistance, and is the basis for nearly all agricultural resistance breeding."

The team started by sequencing the genomes of approximately 500 strains of the bacteria Pseudomonas syringae (P. syringae), which causes disease on nearly every major crop species.

"From these bacterial genomes we identified approximately 15,000 effectors from 70 distinct families," said Guttman. "We then reduced this complexity by identifying 530 effectors that represent their global diversity."

[...] "We found that over 11% of the effectors elicited immune response, and that almost 97% of all P. syringae strains carry at least one immune-eliciting effector," said Desveaux. "We also identified new plant immune receptors that recognize these effectors, and found that almost 95% of all P. syringae strains can be blocked by just two A. thaliana immune receptors."

[...] "While wild plant species have a diverse array of immune receptors, most domesticated crop species have lost much of this immunodiversity due to intensive artificial selection," said Guttman. "Our approach enables the rapid identification of new immune receptors in wild relatives of crops that can then be moved into elite agricultural lines by traditional breeding, ultimately creating new varieties with greater ability to resist agricultural pathogens."

Journal Reference:
Bradley Laflamme et al. The pan-genome effector-triggered immunity landscape of a host-pathogen interaction, Science (2020). DOI: 10.1126/science.aax4079

Original Submission

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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Runaway1956 on Thursday February 20 2020, @08:38AM (4 children)

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Thursday February 20 2020, @08:38AM (#960232) Homepage Journal


    If you're growing the exact same cultivar across an entire continent, and some pestilential thingy develops a workable attack on that cultivar, you're screwed. Do away with monocultures (Monsanto/Bayer approved high profit seed stock) and start growing hundreds of different varieties of whatever crop you're growing. We have made ourselves vulnerable by buying into the Monsanto way of doing things.

    Your private safe room in the back of your mind? Trump pooped in it.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 20 2020, @10:41AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 20 2020, @10:41AM (#960245)

      All true.
      And the sweet grass (cereals, mais, reis...) experiment is also now going well.
      Diabetes and Co. are epidemic.
      Getting real food is getting more and more difficult.

    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 20 2020, @10:51AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 20 2020, @10:51AM (#960246)

      Not only that...

      Exactly what the article describes. We've been breeding crops in such way (genetically identical) to make it dead easy to grow massive amounts of one crop. This breeding resulted in resistance being lost in the crops (because "genetically uniform").

    • (Score: 2) by quietus on Thursday February 20 2020, @06:31PM

      by quietus (6328) Subscriber Badge on Thursday February 20 2020, @06:31PM (#960387) Journal

      Agreed, with an addition: nature involves trade-offs. If you want to produce grains (seeds) with a high starch content, you'll be diverting away energy from other systems in the organism, e.g. its immuno-deficiency system. In that respect, the quote in the last para of the sub is overly optimistic: if you're going to re-introduce the original immuno-receptors in 'elite agricultural lines', their commercial production will decline. (Another optimistic perspective is that your pest problem is caused by only a single organism acting alone -- biological relationships are far more complex than that).

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 20 2020, @06:33PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 20 2020, @06:33PM (#960390)

      Patents encourage monoculture since you can then patent a specific culture. If the culture changes to adapt to the environment now you have to keep getting a new patent. The changing environment is not going to wait for you to get a new patent before it changes.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 20 2020, @06:20PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 20 2020, @06:20PM (#960380)

    What's a good defense to fight cop infections?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 20 2020, @07:28PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 20 2020, @07:28PM (#960413)

      quarantine and leave the area.