Gene-silencing to be deployed against soybean rust
News from researchers at Fort Detrick, Maryland, holds high hopes for a gene silencing technique that could spell an end to Asian soybean rust, an annual disease issue for soybean growers in the US and Ontario.
November 10, 2008 By Delta Farm Press
Asian soybean rust has become a problem to the US southeast since its initial arrival in early 2005. Although it has yet to reach the devastating impact seen in South America and other regions of the world, it is still an annual concern for growers throughout the US, and was discovered in Ontario fields late in 2007.
So news that the soybean rust fungus Phakopsora pachyrhizi may meet its match is welcome, to say the least. Scientists with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plan to deploy a gene-silencing technique to identify genes that enable plants to naturally resist this fungal foe.
Molecular biologist Kerry Pedley, at the ARS Foreign Disease-Weed Science Research Unit at Fort Detrick, Md., will use gene silencing to discover plant genes that play a role in orchestrating defense responses to P. pachyrhizi in resistant soybeans. The fungus causes substantial losses to soybeans worldwide, and its September 2004 detection in the continental United States has accelerated efforts to protect the $18 billion U.S. soybean crop.
Gene silencing allows scientists to identify a gene’s function by disabling that gene in plants or other organisms, challenging the organism in some way — such as with exposure to a pathogen — and observing the consequences that result from that gene having been “missing in action.” In Pedley’s studies, the gene-silenced plants will be inoculated with spores of P. pachyrhizi, and monitored for a breakdown in resistance.