"Our goal is to develop resistant varieties for control of both diseases," Valent said. "We plan to use traditional strategies for finding and deploying resistance genes, as well as novel strategies based on new knowledge generated by research on rice blast." Additional outcomes will be diagnostic tools, training resources for first detectors and responders, and a disease forecasting model. "Another important objective for this project is to educate undergraduate students in plant biosecurity."
"Arguably, rice and wheat are the two most important crops in the world," said James Stack, Kansas State University professor of plant pathology and one of the research team members. "In most countries, either wheat or rice is a staple in citizens' diets. It's hard for people who have ready access to food to understand, but threats to either of those crops can be the difference between food security and hunger."
Typically, about one-fifth of all wheat grown in the United States is grown in Kansas, according to the Kansas Wheat Commission. About half of Kansas wheat is exported to other countries.
In 2012, Kansas produced 382 million bushels of winter wheat and overall U.S. production totaled 1.65 billion bushels, according to the USDA.
One of the many problems posed by wheat blast is that it looks a lot like some other wheat diseases, so it's sometimes hard to detect, said Stack, who serves as the director of the Great Plains Diagnostic Network, a consortium of nine states which is part of the National Plant Diagnostic Center. The network coordinates diagnostics, communications and trains first detectors of plant diseases.
Because wheat blast has not been found in North American wheat, it is critical that the team's research be conducted in a secure facility. For that reason, the scientists are working in Kansas State University's Biosecurity Research
|Contact: Barbara Valent|
Kansas State University