Why do we need gene-edited crops? To make farming more sustainable

Crop improvement has been one of the main targets in research due to the rapid increase of world population. Crop productivity is hugely impacted by pathogens. Pathogen-specific pesticides are commonly applied to protect plants, however, excessive use can cause damaging effects to the environment. Thus, researchers strive to improve crops by boosting their resistance to pathogens. This can be achieved through conventional breeding methods but such techniques are labor-intensive and time-consuming. Gene editing tools are used to genetically engineer crops to have better resistance against pathogens.

One of these tools is known as transcription activator-like effector nucleases or TALENs. TALENs have been successfully applied in rice to engineer resistance to Xanthomonas oryzae, the pathogen that causes bacterial blight. Scientists have also used TALENs to engineer resistance to powdery mildew in wheat.

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With the use of TALENs and other gene-editing tools, improving the biotic resistance of crops through chemical-free approaches is made possible.

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