Crop Tech Corner

KSU Identifies Wheat Genetic Markers

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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(DTN photo illustration by Nick Scalise)

OMAHA (DTN) -- This bi-monthly column condenses the latest news in the field of crop technology, research and products.

WHEAT GENETIC MARKERS DISCOVERY

Wheat scientists at Kansas State University have developed a procedure to identify wild relatives of wheat plants, according to a news release from KSU, http://tinyurl.com/….

Scientists used the procedure to study a chromosome known as 5M that comes from a wheat progenitor called Aegilops geniculate. Researchers say the chromosome contains a group of important agronomic genes. In particular, the genes could be used to breed wheat varieties resistant to wheat rust.

The results of the KSU work were published in The Plant Journal in the study, "Exploring the tertiary gene pool of bread wheat: sequence assembly and analysis of chromosome 5M of Aegilops geniculate."

Scientists developed a strategy that can be used as a model to mine genes of distant wild wheat relatives of current varieties. In addition to combating rust, wild genes can be used to breed varieties that are more tolerant to drought and heat.

Scientists say wheat's primary gene pool has expanded significantly, but the new procedure will allow for increased expansion.

According to the news release, researchers used a procedure to dissect a single wheat chromosome from the larger genome in a wild wheat relative. Scientists then studied gene composition and developed resources and markers in the wild relative for gene mining and transfer to wheat.

Kansas State's Wheat Genetics Resource Center conducted the research, led by Bikram Gill, university distinguished professor of plant pathology. The research team included 11 scientists working with scientists in the Czech Republic and Saudi Arabia.

DEVELOPING NEMATODES THAT ARE NICE

While most farmers see nematodes as a nemesis, there are nematodes known to fight pests in organic crops, often attacking and killing parasites damaging to plants. Though the nice nematodes are important, scientists say their effectiveness is often limited.

That's why genomic research at the University of California-Riverside could aid scientists in creating nematodes that are more effective in combating parasites.

Riverside scientists were able to sequence the genomes of these microscopic worms, http://ucrtoday.ucr.edu/…, opening the door to someday equipping the critters with greater fighting abilities.

In particular, scientists sequenced the genomes of five nematodes likely involved in parasitism and used in agriculture as organic pesticide.

If scientists are able to improve the nematodes' ability to combat parasites, organic farmers could improve yields.

One of the key areas of research involves understanding how genes know when to turn on and off. Riverside researchers have benefitted from sequencing the genomes and comparing them to other well-studied species, then identifying some of the elements that control the on-off switch.

UNDERSTANDING VIRAL PLANT DISEASE

Biochemists at the Texas A&M AgriLife have figured out how a small viral protein enables complex plants to be infected, according to a news release.

The study published in the journal eLife details how scientists focused on plants' ability to defend themselves against viruses by studying how the mosaic virus attacks a common laboratory plant called arabidopsis.

The mosaic virus is of interest to scientists because it infects crops such as corn, cotton, potatoes, peppers and tomatoes after insects that feed on them.

For more information on the research, visit http://tinyurl.com/…

CREATING FERTILIZER FROM LIVESTOCK WASTE

Bion Environmental Technologies, Inc., has filed a new patent application on a technology that reportedly recovers nitrogen-rich, natural, non-synthetic fertilizer from livestock waste streams, according to a news release, http://biontech.com/….

The end product is produced without the use of chemical additives, the company said, which would make the product more sustainable.

According to the news release, the fertilizer produced would contain 12% to 15% nitrogen in a solid crystalline form that is water-soluble.

"It contains none of the other salt, iron and mineral constituents of the livestock waste stream, and it is in an industry-standard form that can be precision-applied to crops using existing equipment," the company said in a news release.

Bion said the product could be sold as a pelletized solid that would be cost-effective to transport.

"Bion projects that the product will have market applicability in crop production, horticulture, greenhouse and hydroponic production, and potentially in the retail markets," the news release said. "Successful OMRI approval for the product's use in organic crop production will provide Bion with access to a higher value market for the product than the synthetic nitrogen markets."

Bion Communications Director Craig Scott said the company will continue to identify opportunities to capture value from waste streams, including various forms of renewable energy, fertilizer products, soil amendments and feed additives.

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

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Todd Neeley