Wheat Scab

(Dr. Bikram Gill) Wheat scab has been described as a wheat industry threatening disease. So essentially, this fungus thrives on corn stubble. And when you plant wheat from corn stubble, this fungus jumps into the wheat flowers and causes the disease. All the wheat essentially were susceptible to this disease. So it turns out that the only source of resistance is in Chinese landrace. This particular landrace is the only one, which has this resistance gene. All the world’s wheats lack this resistance. The Sumai number 3, essentially cloned the DNA of this variety and bacteria, made millions and millions of clones. And then eventually, through painstaking work, we identified the small piece of DNA, which turned out to be, when you introduced it into the plant, the wheat plant, made it resistant. So we have essentially identified this gene, and this gene hunt has been ongoing for the last 20 years, and we have been fortunate to be first one to get it. Now that we have this gene, we can diagnose any variety if it has this resistant gene or not. So number one, it’s very useful as a diagnostic assay. It’s a perfect, what we call the perfect marker. Number two, we can now play around with this gene. We can over-express the gene. We can put promoters so to make the plant more resistant. We can also use the gene sequence to fix susceptible genes in other cultivars. So this technique, it’s called genome editing. That’s very exciting. Generally plant resists, it’s a very long pathway, many genes involved. So now that we know one piece of the puzzle, we can uncover the whole pathway. And I’ll even suggest many more approaches, many more targets where we can intervene and make plants resistant. This is really exciting. This is a big, big exciting step.

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