In the distantly-related Chinese cabbage (Brassica rapa), a potentially durable TuMV disease resistance trait was identified by Professor John Walsh at the University of Warwick, while work by Dr Charlotte Nellist, of NIAB EMR, UK, Dr Bill Briggs, of Syngenta, and Prof Walsh elucidated the novel mechanism of TuMV resistance.
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.
Striga, a parasitic weed (also known as Witchweed,) has long been a problem in African nations; causing farmers to lose billions of dollars’ worth of crops annually. To make matters worse, the weed flourishes in conditions that characterise that of poor farming communities (small plots, mono-cropping, lack of oxen and natural manure and lack of agricultural inputs.)
Recently aired as part of The Climate Reality Project (founded by Al Gore), this documentary contains a 5 minute film about climate change and smallholder coffee production in Colombia. The film featured as part of a 24 hour online stream of climate documentaries and discussions to raise awareness and explain the varying impacts of global climate change.
The University of Illinois has received a five year, $25 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to improve the photosynthetic properties of key food crops, such as rice and cassava. The project, entitled ‘RIPE- Realising Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency’ has the potential to benefit farmers by improving the productivity of staple food crops. Increasing photosynthetic efficiency has the potential to increase yields and reduce the use of irrigation and fertilisation, however to date there has been limited research on photosynthetic properties of crop plants. The University of Illinois research team will apply recent advances in photosynthetic research, model simulations and crop bioengineering to the RIPE project. Stephen Long, the Project Director and Professor of Crop Sciences and Plant Biology at Illinois said:
“The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation predict that the world will need to increase staple crop yields by 20% by 2050. Photosynthesis promises a new area, ripe for exploitation that will provide part of the yield jump the world needs to maintain food security”
Bread wheat (Triticum aestivum) is a globally important crop that accounts for 20% of the calories consumed by the world’s human population. Major work is underway to increase wheat production by expanding knowledge of the wheat genome and analysing key traits, however due to the large size and great complexity of the bread wheat genome progress has been slow. Now scientists from a number of organisations including the Centre for Genome Research at the University of Liverpool, the University of Bristol, University of California and the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research service have been working to sequence the genome and identify several classes of genes involved in crop productivity. The analysis provides a resource for improving this major crop by identifying variation in useful traits such as yield and nutrient content, thereby contributing to sustainable increases in wheat production.