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Herbicide-resistant grape could revitalize Midwest wine industry
Date:10/14/2008

An herbicide that is effective at killing broadleaf weeds in corn, but also annihilated most of the grapes in Illinois and other Midwestern states, may finally have a worthy contender. Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a new grape called Improved Chancellor which is resistant to the popular herbicide 2, 4-D.

"In 1946, 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic or 2, 4-D was introduced. It was a wonder herbicide," said Robert Skirvin, plant biologist in the College ofAgriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. "It works really well in corn and wheat and grass crops because it kills the broadleaves, so the grasses are resistant to it, but grapes are incredibly sensitive to it."

Skirvin said that 1/100th of the amount of 2, 4-D commonly used on corn to kill broadleaves, will kill grapes. Today, more than 50 years after it was introduced, it's still the third most widely used herbicide in the United States.

The discovery of the gene that makes Improved Chancellor resistant to 2, 4-D came about by accident. "The USDA found a soil bacterium that had a gene that breaks down 2, 4-D. Someone noticed that after spilling 2, 4-D on the ground, something in the soil broke it up metabolized it. They were looking for something to control pollution and discovered this soil bacterium instead," said Robert Skirvin, plant biologist in the Collegeof Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.

Skirvin received permission to use the bacterial gene and began in 2002 to transfer it to a grape that would ultimately be resistant to 2, 4-D. He and his graduate student Richard Mulwa followed standard genetic engineering techniques in order to transfer the gene to grape cells. "Selecting the transformed cells is the most delicate stage of the process because out of hundreds of thousands of cells, there may be only 25 cells that actually contain the gene," said Skirvin.

He explained that in order to locate the cells that have t
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Contact: Debra Levey Larson
dlarson@illinois.edu
217-244-2880
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert

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