Environment New study shows how plants fight off disease

New study shows how plants fight off disease

Understanding how plants’ immune systems work will help breed disease-resistant plant varieties, researchers from the University of Queensland say.

The UQ-led study has shown how proteins in plant cells send signals that make the plant resistant to disease.

UQ Professor Bostjan Kobe said the finding was significant as food security was an increasingly relevant problem worldwide.

“It is estimated that pre-harvest plant diseases account for up to 15 per cent of crop losses per year,” he said.

“Crop losses present a significant economic, environmental and social challenge in a world facing increased demands on food, fibre and biofuels.”

Professor Kobe said that breeding resistant plant varieties has been the main strategy to combat plant disease, especially because pesticides can be detrimental to the environment.

He said that while many plant resistance genes have been identified in the past 20 years, there is still a limited understanding of how the products of these genes work.

“In the long-term, our research will help make more effective synthetic resistance genes that can be used to provide additional protection in Australia and worldwide from crop diseases,” Professor Kobe said.

The study was an international collaboration including the teams of Dr Peter Dodds at CSIRO Plant Industry, Associate Professor Peter Anderson at Flinders University, Dr Kee Hoon Sohn at Pohang University of Technology, South Korea, and Professor Brian Staskawicz at the University of California Berkeley.

Read more about this study here. Story credit: University of Queensland newsroom.

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