In the United Kingdom, researchers at the University of Warwick’s Department of Life Sciences have uncovered the genetic basis of remarkable broad-spectrum resistance to a viral infection, Turnip mosaic virus (TuMV), that, in some parts of the world, is the most important pathogen affecting leafy and arable brassica crops including: brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, swede and oilseed rape.
Dr John Walsh of the University of Warwick stated, “TuMV causes really nasty-looking black necrotic spots on the plants it infects – ‘a pox on your’ vegetables! This can cause significant yield losses and often leaves an entire crop unfit for marketing. At best, a field of badly affected Brussels sprouts might provide some animal fodder, but these vegetables would not be appealing to most shoppers. The virus is particularly difficult to control because it is transmitted so rapidly to plants by the insect vectors.”
Dr Walsh and his team identified the major gene involved in resistance to TuMV and discovered that the way in which it creates resistance is completely new. Using this knowledge, they found that it was possible to identify plants with an inherent resistance that could be used to speed up the breeding process and develop commercial varieties that are resistant to TuMV. While Dr. Walsh and Syngenta are currently concentrating on primarily food crops, the research and techniques can be used on rape seed, an important biofuels feedstock.