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Engineering pathogen resistance in crop plants.


As the world population continues to increase, food supplies must also grow to meet nutritional requirements. One means of ensuring the stability and plentitude of the food supply is to mitigate crop loss caused by plant pathogens. Strategies for combating disease include traditional technologies such as plant breeding and chemical applications; current technologies such as generating transgenic plants that express components of known defense signaling pathways; and the adaptation of newer technologies such as RNA silencing of pathogen and plant transcripts. Breeding has been used to pyramid resistance (R) genes into many different plants including rice. Chemical strategies include application of salicylic acid (SA) analogs to stimulate systemic acquired resistance (SAR) responses. Genetic screens in Arabidopsis have identified genes controlling SAR and these genes have been manipulated and used to engineer crop plants. The diseases caused by plant viruses are being thwarted through the initiation of endogenous RNA silencing mechanisms. Many of these strategies show great promise, some limitations, and exciting opportunities to develop many new tools for combating plant pests.

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