Scientists at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plan to use a gene-silencing technique to identify genes that enable plants to naturally resist soy rust fungus Phakopsora pachyrhizi.
ARS molecular biologist Kerry Pedley will use gene silencing to detect plant genes that play a role in organising defence responses to P. pachyrhizi in resistant soy.
Gene silencing allows scientists to identify a gene's function by disabling that gene in living organisms and observing the consequences that result from the gene's shutdown. In Pedley's studies, the gene-silenced plants will be inoculated with spores of P. pachyrhizi, and monitored for a breakdown in resistance.
The goal of the research is to streamline the development of new soy cultivars that can resist P. pachyrhizi, which causes a foliar disease that reduces a plant's seed yields and quality.
The fungus causes great losses to worldwide soy industries, and its September 2004 detection in the US has accelerated efforts to protect the US soy crop that is worth US$18 billion.