Crop Tech Corner
Emily Unglesbee DTN Staff Reporter
Fri Apr 3, 2015 10:48 AM CDT

ST. LOUIS (DTN) -- This bi-monthly column condenses the latest news in the field of crop technology, research and products.

British researchers have produced wheat plants with a bacteria-sensing antenna, which helps the plant respond faster and more effectively to bacterial disease. (DTN photo by Nick Scalise)


British researchers are breeding wheat with the genetic version of an antenna. Don't get too excited -- the plants won't pick up and broadcast the final games of March Madness, but they have gained the ability to sense bacterial diseases and respond quickly and aggressively to them. According to a news release from John Innes Centre (JIC), a plant and microbe research institution in the UK, a team of researchers found a way to transfer a gene from the often-studied plant Arabidopsis thaliana into wheat. The gene, called EFR, encodes a receptor in plants that recognizes a common bacteria protein called EF-Tu. With the new gene, the wheat plants recognize bacterial attacks and unleash defensive responses faster, leading to more bacterial disease-resistant plants. The discovery could open the door to many new kinds of disease resistance, said Chris Ridout, a geneticist with JIC and one of the lead authors on the study. "As the wheat genome is sequenced further and we continue our analysis of receptor genes in dicots, we hope to identify more genes that can be used to develop durable resistance, not only to bacterial diseases, but to the most important fungal pathogens of wheat such as yellow rust, Septoria and powdery mildew," he said in the news release. You can find the JIC news release here:…, and the published study here:….


Texas corn producers have long used corn seed developed in Midwestern breeding programs, but Texas A&M researchers are working to change that. According to a Texas A&M AgriLife news release, university researchers recently published a study that scrutinized the corn genome for genes that will optimize "sub-tropical" production. The research turned up genes that can increase corn yields by up to 15 bushels an acre and confer improved drought tolerance and aflatoxin resistance. In their quest for these improved Southern corn traits, the researchers found the most promising pools of genes in Mexico, where corn was first domesticated, the release noted. Future research will focus on learning more about the genes' functions and breeding out bad variants, the researchers said. For more information on this Texas corn research, see the university news release here:…, and the published study here:….


Sure, you can see the blossoms unfolding and feel the pollen clogging up your sinuses, but head online to view the bigger picture of spring progressing across the nation. Mark Schwartz, a geography professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has developed statistical models called Extended Spring Indices that predict and then track the development of spring across the nation. The indices combine historical data on when plants bloom with real-time weather data to generate a map of the U.S., where you can watch green shading creep across the states as spring gets underway. Schwartz hopes the spring tracker will have a multitude of applications, such as predicting and preventing wildfires or helping farmers decide when to start planting. The tracker has also shed light on how climate change has affected spring -- Schwartz's models show that spring in the Northern Hemisphere is starting a week earlier these days compared to the 1950s. For more information on the spring indices, see this UWM press release:… and view the model itself here:….

Emily Unglesbee can be reached at

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