SYDNEY, Feb. 6 (Xinhua) -- A global collective of scientists have drastically streamlined the time it takes to find and introduce disease-resistance genes from wild plants into domestic crops such as rice, wheat and potato, a research revealed on Tuesday.
Scientists from the John Innes Center in Britain, along with colleagues from Australia and the United States have created a database known as AgRenSeq, where researchers can easily search for resistance genes already discovered in wild relatives of modern crops.
The study was co-authored by a global expert in cereal rust genetics, Professor Harbans Bariana from the University of Sydney, who said that this technology will underpin fast-tracked discovery and characterization of new sources of disease resistance in plants.
Once researchers have identified resistance genes using AgRenSeq they can clone them and introduce them to domestic crops to protect against diseases and pests such as rusts, powdery mildew and Hessian fly.
"We have found a way to scan the genome of a wild relative of a crop plant and pick out the resistance genes we need and we can do it in record time," Dr. Brande Wulff, a project leader from the John Innes Centre, said.
"This used to be a process that took 10 or 15 years and was like searching for a needle in a haystack," Wulff said.
"We have perfected the method so that we can clone these genes in a matter of months and for just thousands of dollars instead of millions," Wulff said.
The team are highly optimistic about their work, predicting it to be utilized in protecting many crops with wild relatives including soyabean, pea, cotton, maize, potato, wheat, barley, rice, banana and cocoa.
"If we have an epidemic, we can go to our library and inoculate that pathogen across our diversity panel and pick out the resistance genes."
"Using speed cloning and speed breeding we could deliver resistance genes into elite varieties within a couple of years, like a phoenix rising from the ashes," Wulff added.