Tailor-made crop varieties for farmers

Bacterial wilt in tomato crops were the focus of this study (© Pexels)

Bacterial wilt (Ralstonia solanacearum) is one of the world’s most devastating plant diseases, with major crops such as tomato, potato and pepper being severely affected. Until now, crop breeders and farmers have had to simply wait for their crops to mature to determine the level of resistance to the disease. New research has shown that with modern metabolomics technology, it is possible to determine the level of disease resistance in plants much earlier at the seedling stage. This development could save both farmers and breeder time and money when growing host crops, and reduce the yield losses caused by the bacterial disease.

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TerraSentia: the automated crop monitoring robot

TerraSentia robot to aid crop breeding processes (© The Silicon Review)

A team of researchers from the University of Illinois have developed a completely automated robot capable of monitoring crops in the field during growth periods with the aim of aiding crop breeders in the extensive task of developing and comparing plant cultivars.

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Nuclear technology used to develop high altitude barley in Peru

A new video from the International Atomic Energy Agency shows how radiation can be used to make mutations in crop plant DNA. This process applied to a large number of seeds creates a selection of mutants that can be tested to see how well they perform as crops. Research in Peru has led to the development of a new barley variety, which has benefited farmers with its high yield.

Speedy crop breeding to help Japanese rice growers

New salt-tolerant varieties of rice will help Japanese farmers in tsunami-affected areas © Molly Des Jardins, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license

The devastating tsunami that hit northeastern parts of Japan last March left thousands of acres of farmland damaged by saltwater. Much of this agricultural land was paddy fields, which were left with up to 25 cm of sand and mud deposited and highly saline conditions resulting from evaporation of the seawater.

Scientists from the Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, UK, in collaboration with Iwate Biotechnology Research Centre in Japan, are screening rice varieties to find those that can grow in salty conditions. They are doing this using their new MutMap method, which provides a much quicker way of finding new crop varieties than traditional breeding methods. Continue reading

Stopping Striga before it’s started

The flowers might look pretty but Striga has affected millions of hectares of crops in Africa © IITA Image Library (Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0 license)

Striga, or witchweed, is the main weed affecting many cereals including rice, maize, sorghum and millet. One species, Striga hermonthica, is responsible for more crop loss in Africa than any other individual species of weed. Striga is a hemi-parasitic weed; its roots latch onto the roots of its host (e.g. a crop plant such as rice) and take water and nutrients from the host plant. Muhammad Jamil and his colleagues at Wageningen University in the Netherlands have found a way to reduce germination of Striga seeds, thereby preventing crop plants from being affected in the first place.

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