Scientists use ‘gene knock’ to fight disease resistance in food crops

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A NEW gene editing technique has the potential to confer broad spectrum disease resistance to specific staple crops without affecting other physical traits, according to a scientist from Texas A&M AgriLife Research.

Dr Junqi Song, a plant pathologist in AgriLife together with his team of researchers, explores how a “knock-in” gene editing approach might achieve better disease resistance in many crop plants. Instead of switching genes off (knocking out), they used CRISPR-Cas9 system to introduce, or knock in a specific group of genetic regulators that allow disease resistance without affecting the plant.

“By comparison, the knock-in approach is a much more complicated process than knockout,” Dr. Song stressed. The knock in will form an introduced system that helps the plant’s existing disease resistance genes to be more efficient in countering the attacking pathogens.

Song’s team currently focuses on addressing late blight disease in tomato and potato but may have implications for other important food crops such as wheat, rice, cotton, strawberry, carrot, and citrus.

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