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Making the research rounds

Eastern field editor for Top Crop Manager, Ralph Pearce has prepared this brief look at various research projects. While not a comprehensive list, it provides a glimpse of some of the work currently underway: some ideas and trends that may develop further as 2007 turns into 2008.


February 16, 2008
By Ralph Pearce


Topics

Federal researchers mirror US work on sclerotinia
Researchers with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Eastern Cereal and Oilseed Research Centre (ECORC) in Ottawa have received $140,000 to develop strategies to combat sclerotinia. The five year program is headed by Dr. Daina Simmonds and will attempt to develop a plan of attack against the fungal phytopathogen Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, including identification and characterization of a plant’s defense genes and its fungal disease controls.

The work is similar to that being conducted by the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) in various locations. Researchers with North Dakota State University are working with a mycoparasite, Coniothyrium minitrans which is capable of penetrating the hard protective sclerotia that develop from the pathogen. This particular research has been ongoing in the US since 2002, although Simmonds’ work at AAFC-ECORC pre-dates that including the use of a gene isolated from wheat in combating sclerotinia in soybeans.

Cracking wheat’s genetic code
Unraveling the complexities and intricacies of the human genome may have seemed daunting at the time, but at least those researchers were not trying to unlock wheat’s genetic secrets. That task has befallen a group at the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) site in Albany, California. And the challenge is considerable, given wheat’s genome is roughly 10 times the size of the human genome.

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Wheat is actually a complex union of three ancestral grass genomes. Researchers at the ARS’s Western Regional Research Centre are first studying the genome in the hopes of finding any naturally occurring differences in the sequence of nucleotides, the components of genes. Specifically, they are interested in finding single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs (pronounced ‘snips’). In wheat plants, a SNP could indicate the difference between the plant possessing high amounts of a particular protein vital to bread making. Or it might indicate a small amount of it. Variations in these single nucleotides could also affect such traits as resistance to diseases or insects.

The bottom line on this research is that eventually, millers would have greater consistency in the quality of their flour, meaning bakers could make bread dough with a better balance of strength and elasticity.
That high-value trait would reduce or eliminate the need for blending of various flours which can be a
costly task. -end-