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GM maize, disease control and grain enrichment

By Nicola Cottam

- Last updated on GMT

GM maize for Europe? Pest management breakthroughs and cost-effective enrichment method hold promise for industry
GM maize for Europe? Pest management breakthroughs and cost-effective enrichment method hold promise for industry

Related tags: Maize, Gm

A newly developed GM maize may soon be available in Europe, scientists uncover promising findings in the quest for disease prevention and exome designs prove cost-effective in grain enrichment.

EU close to accord on new GM maize strain  

A genetically modified (GM) insect resistant maize crop may soon be cultivated in Europe, if EU members agree.

If authorisation is granted it will be the first GM crop in over three years to be given the green light in Europe.

The 1507 GM maize was developed jointly by DuPont and Dow Chemical and has been modified to release a pesticide toxin (Bt [2]) and to resist the effects of the glufosinate ammonium herbicide.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) confirmed in 2011 that the Bt toxin might be harmful to butterflies and moths, but has not assessed the risks of 1507’s tolerance to herbicides according to EU requirements. 

EU governments have been given three months to vote, with strong opposition expected from France, Austria and Italy in particular.

There are only two GM crops currently approved for cultivation in the European Union and Monsanto's insect-resistant maize (MON810) is the only one grown commercially.

Source: European Commission
Published November 6, 2013
“GMO: Commission asks Council to agree on its proposal to grant Member States more subsidiarity on cultivation”​ 

Disease prevention: Scientists progress in fight against fungal pathogens

A major fungal pathogen that causes leaf blotch disease in barley is present in and can be spread by wild grasses, scientists find.

It is common knowledge that the disease is spread on infected seeds and by rain which disperses in short distances and on to barley crops. Spores can also spread into crops from ryegrass in grass margins around fields.

The finding that wild grasses can spread and contain the pathogen could help stem the spread of the disease in the future, the Rothamsted Research scientists said.

Professor Bruce Fitt, Professor of Plant Pathology at the University of Hertfordshire, said: “The source of the disease is unclear and this has puzzled farmers and researchers alike. If this pathogen species can be spread from wild grasses onto barley crops and back again, further investigation is needed to identify how widespread this species is and also the role that wild grasses play as sources of disease for other crops such as wheat.”

In a separate project, Rothamsted researchers have also identified two wheat genes that act as a defence response when crops are attacked by the Septoria leaf blotch pathogen.  This finding could help scientists to develop molecular approaches to combat the disease in the future.

Source: PLoS One
Published 2013, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0072536
“Evolutionary Relationships between Rhynchosporium lolii sp. nov. and Other Rhynchosporium Species on Grasses”
Authors: KM. King. JS. West, PC. Brunner, PS. Dyer, BD. L. Fitt

Source: Rothamsted Research​ 
Published 2013, volume 26, no. 12 Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions​ 
“Mycosphaerella graminicola LysM effector-mediated stealth pathogenesis subverts recognition through both CERK1 and CEBiP homologues in wheat”
Authors: W.Lee, ​JJ.Rudd, ​KE.Hammond-Kosack, ​K.Kanyuka

Mutant corn:  Key to controlling rootworm beetle

A mutant corn strain susceptible to attack by the Western corn rootworm beetle could be used in a “push-pull” pest-management strategy to lure beetles to a specific location where they can be controlled, US researchers suggest.

The beetle was previously thought to avoid corn leaves thanks to a natural defence mechanism within the plant, however an increase in continuous crop systems have rendered current management strategies obsolete.

The team at Purdue and University of Illinois in the US said the finding improves understanding about the mechanism of defense the corn has.

“In identifying the genetic pathway involved in resistance, we can develop better ways of controlling this pest without having to use insecticides,” ​said Gurmukh Johal, professor of botany and plant pathology.

Source: PLoS One​ 
Published 2013, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0071296
“crw1​ - A Novel Maize Mutant Highly Susceptible to Foliar Damage by the Western Corn Rootworm Beetle”
Authors: BP. Venkata, N. Lauter, X.Li, C. Chapple, C. Krupke, G. Johal, S.Moose

Genome research: Creating more robust wheat, barley and maize

Crop exome designs provide researchers with a more cost-effective and easy-to-use sequencing method to enrich the genomes of wheat, barley and maize plants, developers say.

SeqCap EZ Exome Designs designed by Swiss Biotech company Roche NimbleGen provides the agricultural research community with an alternative tool for in-depth analysis of complex traits in genomes relevant to potential breeding programs.

Whole genome sequencing is a commonly used breeding technique, but it is not the most efficient method for many applications as it is a cost-prohibitive and time-consuming process.

The Wheat Barley Exome Consortium (WBEC) worked closely with Roche NimbleGen to develop both the Wheat and Barley Exome Designs for public use. The WBEC is a collaboration of researchers from the University of Liverpool, Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK), James Hutton Institute, Kansas State University, University of Minnesota, University of Saskatchewan, and BIOGEMMA. The Maize Exome design resulted from the collaboration between Roche NimbleGen and researchers at Iowa State University and the University of Minnesota.

Source: Nimblegen
Published 2013, “Wheat, barley and maize target enrichment designs for exome sequencing”

Related topics: Milling & Grains

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