Lots of microbes infect plants, but one of them is taking over rice crops, destroying enough grain to feed sixty million people!
It's called rice blast, and not only does this little fungus have a bad rep, it's got a lot of smarts, to boot. With a special receptor that helps it single out rice from other plants, this pathogen targets and attacks rice and some other grasses. And so far, it's been unstoppable. Chemical treatments, and even specialized genetic breeding by some rice growers have proven no match for rice blast because it rapidly mutates itself to better attack the plant.
But researchers have just come up with a sneaky solution. They sequenced the genome for the rice blast microbe. With the gene sequence for rice already established, they now have the tools to watch the interaction between the plant and microbe first hand.
Dean: "The holy grail is to develop disease-resistant rice that's durable and environmentally friendly."
That's Ralph Dean, one of the researchers working on the project at North Carolina State University. He says decoding the rice blast genome will further our knowledge of other plant/microbe interactions and pathogens, and pave the way for tougher, more disease-resistant plants! Ain't that a blast! I'm Eric Phillips.
"Imagine That!" covers projects funded by the U.S. government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you, by you! Learn more at nsf.gov.