A research collaboration lead by a professor from the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) at Virginia Tech will work to develop methods to protect agriculturally important crops in developing countries from devastating attacks from plant pathogens with the support of a $1.45 million award from the BREAD (Basic Research to Enable Agricultural Development) program sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).
VBI and Virginia Tech Plant Pathology, Physiology and Weed Science Professor Brett Tyler (https://www.vbi.vt.edu/faculty/personal_pages/brett_tyler), along with Mark Guiltinan (http://guiltinanlab.cas.psu.edu/), Penn State professor of Horticulture, and Shunyuan Xiao (http://carb.umbi.umd.edu/xiaogroup/), associate professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, will develop new approaches for crop protection against a broad range of diseases caused by fungal and fungal-like pathogens. The team's research will target cacao, an economically and ecologically important crop for a number of developing countries, in collaboration with cacao expert Brian Bailey from the U. S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agriculture Research Service (ARS) in Beltsville, Md.
According to the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO), approximately three million tons of cocoa, which is the primary ingredient in chocolate made from cacao seeds, is produced globally each year. Africa produces 70 percent of the world's cocoa and it serves as a major export commodity for many other countries such as Ecuador, Venezuela, Brazil, Costa Rica, Malaysia, and Indonesia. In addition to being an important economic crop for these areas, it also provides many ecological benefits such as rain forest preservation. Plant disease caused by fungal and
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