Disease-resistant seeds developed after a century
Friday, Aug 16th 2013

After years of research, scientists are ready to try genetically altered seeds to battle plant diseases seen in farmers' crops. The new development could help in multiple communities and have more uses due to the capabilities observed during the experimentation process.

Scientists have studied plant immune systems for more than a century and combined their findings to develop a more sophisticated tactic to thwart blights. Disease-resistant seeds will help build healthier plants which will reduce water use and pesticide dependence while providing agricultural aid in developing countries, according to the National Science Foundation. Pathogens kill about 15 percent of crop harvests a year, and the new seeds will create a more sustainable way of feeding populations while deterring diseases.

Gallons of water are wasted on plants that become infected, as the crops can be lost late in their lifecycles. Farmers also rely on pesticides to protect plants, but many cultivators in other countries can't afford them, leaving the crops vulnerable. Research has yielded a DNA sequencing fix to build stronger plant varieties that will attack pathogens when detected. Similar experiments introducing disease-resistant genes have already been effective in Hawaii where the papaya industry came back from an impending ringspot virus outbreak in the '90s.

"We now know enough about the key molecules in the plant immune system that we can actually start to deploy what we've learned," said Jeff Dangl, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and biology professor at the University of North Carolina.

Improve for the future
Research is extremely important for the development and creation of solutions that will help future generations. The disease-resistant seeds will significantly reduce the risk pesticides pose. Pesticides, while effective during the growing season, can linger when the plants are picked and delivered for consumption. In many cases the amount is too small to pose a significant risk, but ones with higher toxicity could affect the nervous system, according to the EPA. The new crops will be very beneficial for future generations and have set a building block for additional advancement.

As with any research, the lab samples must be kept in the appropriate environment in order to yield results. Environmental control systems can ensure that the plant specimens remain viable in their current states for experimentation. The study took place over numerous years, and the plant samples as well as the seed products would have to be in optimal conditions to ensure they didn't die or become unusable.

Research is a pivotal part of advancement and needs to have the best tools to ensure that there are positive findings. Temperature monitoring can be used for a number of samples including stem cells, organs for regeneration and many others. Most research is a delicate process and can turn bad quickly if the samples are in the wrong conditions. Not only would they not be able to be tested, but new specimens would have to be gathered, wasting much needed time and money.

Research can help entire countries develop and become more sustainable. New advancements in the agricultural field could aid crop growth around the world and provide more food for those that need it most.