Gene silencing immunizes valuable food crops against deadly plant diseases

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Using 'GMO-free' gene silencing to engineer disease resistant crops could help control pests.

The defense of crops from new pathogens and parasites is one of the main challenges that the agriculture sector is currently facing. The economic damage caused by …. the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa and Drosophila suzukii diptera, [for example] amounts to about one million euros per year.

…. Access to all technologies available, including biotechnologies, is fundamental to face new dangers and reduce the use of pesticides in agriculture.

Promising results come from new methods based on the gene silencing system by interfering RNA (RNAi), which is able to enhance the defense capabilities of plants to respond to the attack of pathogens. With the RNAi technique it is possible to modulate the expression of plant genes without requiring the expression of new molecules.

Related article:  Gene silencing through RNA interference scores first drug approval

The characteristics of mobility through the plant’s vascular system offer the possibility to transform rootstocks for woody plants for stable expression of RNAi, conferring resistance to scions producing non-GM fruits. RNA molecules can also be produced and applied as a topical treatment to plants to change their physiology or control on pests and pathogens. It is realistic to consider imminent the availability of dsRNA as a biopesticide applicable as foliar spray, seed tanning or directly in the soil.

Read full, original article: European iPlanta Project researches crop defense

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