12 June 2017. Source: Daily Nation

Genetic engineering boosts immunity against crop disease

The chemicals that farmers spray on their crops in form of pesticides to kill pests and prevent diseases have always been a bone of contention, with researchers trying to find safer alternatives. A new variety of rice that fights multiple pathogens with no effect on the yield of the crop, is thus a welcome relief for both farmers and scientists.

The discovery is based on a study of the plant’s immune system. Plants use receptors on the outside of their cells to identify molecules that signal a microbial invasion, and respond by releasing antimicrobial compounds. Therefore, identifying genes that kickstart this immune response yields disease-resistant plants…The researchers tested the superiority of engineered rice over regular rice by inoculating crop leaves with the bacterial pathogens that cause rice blight and leaf streak, as well as the fungus responsible for blast disease. Whereas the infections spread on the leaves of  wild rice plants, the engineered plants confined the invaders to a small area.