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Rice gene helps fight Fusarium in corn
Transgenic corn plants outfitted with a rice gene have shown increased resistance to Fusarium, a disease that affects the quality of cereal grains around the world.
In lab and field research over the past two years, a team of scientists and graduate students from the University of Guelph and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) showed, what plant agriculture professor Peter Pauls calls “incremental” effects in Fusarium resistance by corn plants.
“It’s no silver bullet, but it’s a step forward in our understanding of how to deal with this disease,” says Pauls. “Small advances will have to be the way we deal with this disease because it’s so complicated, but Fusarium affects all cereals, so what we’ve learned from corn might be relevant to wheat.”
As many as 10 genes can contribute to natural resistance to Fusarium, and each of them have a small but very different role in battling the disease. In the current study, researchers used genetically modified organism technology to introduce specific genes from rice into corn to reduce its sensitivity to the toxin Fusarium produces, called vomitoxin. They also used a fungal gene that detoxifies the toxin in another series of transgenic corn plants.
In their tests, the researchers found as much as a 60 per cent decrease in the disease.
Other researchers involved from the University of Guelph include Dr. Yarmilla Reinprecht and Joe Martin.
Funding for the current research was been provided by Grain Farmers of Ontario. It is based on many years of previous work supported by AAFC, the former Ontario Corn Producers, Ontario Pork, Pioneer Hi-bred, Syngenta Seeds, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and Federation des Producteurs de Cultures Commerciales du Quebec. •
Inputs competitively priced here compared to U.S.
In 2011, Ontario farmers spent an average of nearly $59,000 per farm on four farm inputs — fertilizers, pesticides, seeds, and fuel. On most farms, the cost of production is around $500 per acre; inputs account for almost half that number.
Some say that Ontario farm input costs are a lot more expensive than those found in neighbouring U.S. states. But is that true? University of Guelph agricultural economics Professor Ken McEwan, director of the Ridgetown Campus, wanted to find out.
“Farmers in Ontario compete in a North American market, so it is important that they have access to competitively priced inputs compared to our U.S. neighbours,” he says.
For the last 20 years, his team has surveyed farm supply stores across Ontario, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio, tracking fluctuations in fertilizers, pesticides, seeds, and fuel prices. Their research shows Ontario inputs are generally competitively priced. While fuel prices are higher in Ontario than the U.S., major use pesticides (for example, glyphosate) tend to be very competitively priced in Ontario. However, price differences can exist in minor use products.
Seed and fertilizer costs tend to be driven by global supply and demand factors. If product demand is low and availability is high within North America and around the globe, Ontario costs are normally lower, and vice versa.
McEwan predicts a modest upward trend in farm input prices. But, he says, many complex factors are involved — such as market size, patent protection, producer willingness to pay, new product technology, inflation, and global food demand — when predicting future trends.
Collaborators on the project include research associate, Randy Duffy.
You can find the research report at www.ridgetownc.uoguelph.ca/research/
Funding for their research is provided by Grain Farmers of Ontario and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. •
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.