23/02/2021 WORLD NEWS 17
No 1

Researchers Solve Riddle of Plant Immune System

Figure: Lennart Mohnike collects leaf material from bacterially infected plants. Photo Source: University of Göttingen
An international research team led by the University of Göttingen studied the molecular mechanisms of plant immune system and was able to show the connection between a relatively unknown gene and resistance to pathogens.
The research team from Plant Responses To Eliminate Critical Threat (PRoTECT), an International Research Training Group (IRTG) founded in 2016 with the University of Göttingen and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver aimed to identify and describe a gene from a disease-resistant plant. The researchers observed that plants that do not possess this previously little-known gene strongly accumulate active acids and show a significantly increased resistance to pathogens. However, this resistance is accompanied by extremely reduced growth.
According to Professor Ivo Feußner from the Göttingen Centre for Molecular Biosciences (GZMB), they have succeeded in deciphering the molecular connection between the gene product and the inactivation of acids during normal plant growth. This understanding provides scientists with a promising approach to improving the natural resistance of crops. "The basic results can be used to help breeders isolate less susceptible plants," says Lennart Mohnike, first author of the study.
For more details, read the article on the University of Göttingen website.


No 2


 Pulses of ICRISAT. Photo: ICRISAT 
Figure: Pulses of ICRISAT. Photo: ICRISAT
Could legumes be the key to food production sustainability and climate change resilience? They consume less than half the non-renewable energy of traditional cereals, they can survive harsh conditions like drought and they improve soil health by fixing nitrogen.
On this, World Pulses Day, February 10, Dr Christopher Ochieng Ojiewo, principal scientist at ICRISAT (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics) in Nairobi, Kenya, asks the question “What lessons can we learn from legume farmers in Africa?”
He is a seed systems expert and coordinates the AVISA Project (Accelerated Varietal Improvement and Seed Delivery of Legumes and Cereals in Africa).
For 12 years the Tropical Legumes initiative worked to develop and distribute high-yielding, climate-resilient legume varieties to millions of poor farmers in drought-prone areas of Africa.
The results have been life-changing and include increasing farmers’ yield and income, as well as strengthening their food security.
As the risks from climate change increase for farmers across the world, our agriculture and food systems will need to adapt to sustainable production if they are to survive.
Could legume crops be the way forward in delivering multiple advantages in line with sustainability principles?
The advantages of legumes:
  • When grown in rotation with other crops, they can break cycles of pests and diseases
  • Can ‘unlock’ phosphorus for other crops to use and have a unique ability to take nitrogen from the air and transfer it to soil – a process known as ‘nitrogen fixation.’ They can therefore provide a cheaper and more sustainable alternative to fertilizers
  • Release high-quality organic matter into the soil and facilitate soil nutrient circulation and water retention
  • Contribute to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, as they release 5–7 times less GHG per unit area compared with other crops
  • Allow the sequestration of carbon in soils to assist in slowing or reversing atmospheric CO2 pollution and mitigating or reversing global warming
  • Induce a saving of fossil energy inputs in the system thanks to N fertilizer reduction, corresponding to 277 kg ha−1 of CO2 per year
  • Could be introduced in modern cropping systems to increase crop diversity and reduce use of external inputs
  • Have high potential for conservation agriculture, being functional either as growing crop or as crop residue.
The Tropical Legumes initiative:
  • Involved approximately 25 million farmers across 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia and helped them replace older legume varieties – some 20, 30, or even 50 years old – that were susceptible to drought, pests and disease.
  • Was 12-year, $67 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that was implemented across 15 African countries by national partners and three international CGIAR research organisations: the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).
  • Targeted three main areas: (1) developing high-yielding and climate-resilient legume varieties; (2) improving ‘seed systems’ that deliver the varieties directly to farmers; and (3) strengthening the capacity of breeding programs so they were able to develop the varieties faster and more efficiently.
  • Strategically invested in the food legume crops that African farmers depend on the most for their consumption and income, including groundnut, common bean, cowpea, chickpea, pigeon pea and soybean.
  • Leveraged the experience of the private sector, crop science initiatives and the CGIAR Excellence in Breeding Platform – adopting their approaches and tools to increase efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Enhanced understanding of food legume genetics. With access to richer genetic information breeders were able to develop more varieties at a quicker pace to meet evolving demands and needs.
  • The gains of the Tropical Legumes initiatives are now being consolidated by a new project, Accelerated Varietal Improvement and Seed Delivery of Legumes and Cereals in Africa (AVISA), which is building on the experience of its predecessor to continue enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of breeding programs and seed systems.
World Pulses Day, February 10, is a designated United Nations global event to recognize the importance of pulses (chickpeas, dry beans, lentils, dry peas and lupins among others) as a global food.
Science news

Identification of QTL for resistance to leaf blast in foxtail millet by genome re-sequencing analysis

Theoretical and Applied Genetics February 2021; vol. 134:743–754

Key message

Three QTL for resistance to leaf blast were identified on chromosomes 1, 2, and 8 of the foxtail millet cultivar Yugu 5.


Leaf blast disease of foxtail millet (Setaria italica) is caused by Pyricularia spp., can infect all the aboveground parts of plants, and is the most frequently observed blast disease in China. Lack of information on genetic control of disease resistance impedes developing leaf blast-resistant cultivars. An F6 recombinant inbred line (RIL) population from the cross Yugu 5 × Jigu 31 was phenotyped for its reactions to leaf blast in six field trials in the naturally diseased nurseries. An ultra-density genetic linkage map was constructed using 35,065 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers generated by sequencing of the RIL population. Three QTL, QLB-czas1QLB-czas2, and QLB-cazas8, were detected in the genomic intervals of 276.6 kb, 1.62 Mb, and 1.75 Mb on chromosomes 1, 2, and 8 of Yugu 5, which explained 14–17% (2 environments), 9% (5 environments), and 12–20% (6 environments) of the phenotypic variations. Bulked segregant analysis (BSA) and RNA sequencing (BSR-Seq) method identified common SNPs that fell in the genomic region of QLB-czas8, providing additional evidence of localization of this QTL. Three and 19 predicted genes were annotated to be associated with disease resistance in the genomic intervals for QLB-czas2 and QLB-czas8. Due to their unique positions, these QTL appear to be new loci conferring resistance to leaf blast. The identification of these new resistance QTL will be useful in cultivar development and the study of the genetic control of blast resistance in foxtail millet.
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