Steve Scofield discovered gene which protects grains from disease

Our species owes its survival in part to the stoutness of the disease-resistant gene in grains, says the USDA’s Steve Scofield. He’s studying a gene that protects grasses – including wheat, rice, corn, barley, and other grains – from disease.

Steve Scofield: It’s sort of a story about how effective disease resistance can be in plants and how important that is for us who depend on those plants.

Steve Scofield is a U.S. Department of Agriculture research geneticist. With Guri Johal and Michael Zanis at Purdue, Scofield studied the gene Hm1, and discovered it has protected grains against a deadly, disease-causing fungus for millions of years. This work could lead geneticists to new strategies for protecting grains that are so vital for Earth’s food supply.

Steve Scofield: If you wanted to design a durable resistance system in a plant, you would need to identify some component of whatever the pathogen had to have to be an effective pathogen, and design the resistance mechanism around destruction or recognition of that essential pathogen molecule.

Scofield believes that our species owes its survival in part to the stoutness of the disease-resistant gene in grains.

Steve Scofield: That’s what I think is really cool about this story, is people look at plants and think they’re rather static organisms, but they’re actually being challenged all the time by different pathogens.

Our thanks to:
Steve Scofield
Research Geneticist
U.S. Department of Agriculture
West Lafayette, IN

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