University professor assists in gene cloning to fight wheat disease

Thursday, December 1, 2016

“The gene found is not only resistant to Fusarium head blight, but to other diseases as well,” said University of Minnesota Plant Pathology Professor Ruth Dill-Macky.

Wheat scab and other small grain diseases, like stem rust, only affect the plants for a short period of time.

Fusarium head blight strikes late in wheat’s growth cycle when the plant flowers, Dill-Macky said, about two weeks before it turns golden brown.

Wheat with scab has a bleached-out tan color on its head, and the toxin eats away the seeds.

“The yield damage is economically important, but it really affects the farmers more than anything else,” Dill-Macky said.

Dill-Macky said farmers combat the disease by using fungicides and rotating their crops....

University of Minnesota plant pathology assistant professor Melania Figueroa said breeding programs are the most sustainable way to fight the disease.

“Basically, you’re using the immunity of the plant to combat the fungus, and you don’t just apply fungicides that could be harmful to human health and the environment,” Figueroa said. - via MN Daily