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Genes from sweet pepper to fortify African banana against devastating wilt disease
Date:8/6/2010

DAR ES SALAAM, TANZANIA (6 August 2010)In a major breakthrough, crop scientists announced today the successful transfer of green pepper genes to bananas, conferring on the popular fruit the means to resist one of the most devastating diseases of bananas in the Great Lakes region of Africa.

The Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW) costs banana farmers about half a billion dollars worth of damage every year across East and Central Africa. The leaves of affected crops turn yellow and then wilt, and the fruit ripens unevenly and before its time. Eventually the entire plant withers and rots.

Dr. Leena Tripathi, a biotechnologist with International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and lead author of the paper, said there is still a long way to go before the transgenic bananas find their way onto farmers' fields, but she called the breakthrough "a significant step in the fight against the deadly banana disease."

The transformed bananas, newly-infused with one of two proteins from the green pepper, have shown strong resistance to Xanthomonas wilt in the laboratory and in screen houses. The researchers are poised to begin confined field trials in Uganda soon.

Some of the findings on the protective impact of the two proteinsplant ferredoxin-like amphipathic protein (Pflp) and hypersensitive response-assisting protein (Hrap)were published recently in the journal Molecular Plant Pathology.

"The Hrap and Pflp genes work by rapidly killing the cells that come into contact with the disease-spreading bacteria, essentially blocking it from spreading any further," Tripathi said. "Hopefully, this will boost the arsenal available to fight BXW and help save millions of farmers' livelihoods in the Great Lakes region."

The novel green pepper proteins that give crops enhanced resistance against deadly pathogens can also provide effective control against other BXW-like bacterial diseases in other parts of the world.
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Contact: Jeffrey T. Oliver
o.jeffrey@cgiar.org
234-806-319-0480
Burness Communications
Source:Eurekalert

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