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Adopting Fusarium’s tactics for disease-resistant corn
Genes from rice and fusarium fungus could help reduce deoxynivalenol (DON) toxin levels in corn.
University of Guelph Plant Agriculture Prof. Peter Pauls says either of these two genes would result in a crop more resistant to fusarium, leading to less DON toxin in corn-based foods and feeds.
Pauls has transformed corn with two genes that he hopes will significantly reduce fusarium infection rates and less DON in the crop.
The first is a modified rice gene that is resistant to the toxic effects of the DON toxin produced by fusarium. This gene was isolated by collaborators Steven Gleddie and Linda Harris at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Ottawa, and is genetically similar to susceptible genes that exist in corn.
The second gene comes from the fusarium fungus itself and was obtained from collaborators in Israel.
Fusarium is not susceptible to DON, the toxin it produces, because of an active gene that renders the DON toxin harmless to itself.
Pauls began field testing last spring and is planning another season to confirm positive results.
“We need to prove these genes are effective in a field setting,” he says. “Fewer toxins in corn means less chance of illness, so a positive result there would be a huge step forwards for both people and livestock.”
This research is now funded by the Grain Farmers of Ontario. Previously sponsors included the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and other agricultural organizations. •
Achieving red clover uniformity
Forage crops help organic matter get reincorporated into the soil in a conventional corn, soy and wheat rotation. Red clover is the forage crop frequently used in conjunction with winter wheat, but it doesn’t always grow uniformly.
“Because clover delivers nitrogen, sporadic growth means that there’s nitrogen in some places, and not in others,” says University of Guelph Department of Plant Agriculture Prof. Ralph Martin.
Martin and co-investigator Prof Bill Deen are leading a research team looking at ways to achieve uniform clover growth, and how to get this uniformity to persist. This study will investigate such alternatives as using a global positioning system to apply fertilizer differentially, so that it would only be applied where it’s needed.
The researchers will also be looking at the effects of seeding clover just after wheat has headed, when it’s drawing less moisture from the soil, so that the two crops won’t be competing.
Funding is being provided by the Grain Farmers of Ontario •
Research Roundup is provided by members of SPARK (Students Promoting Awareness of Research Knowledge) at the University of Guelph’s Office of Research. For more information, contact a SPARK writer at 519-824-4120, ext. 52667.