Soybean Gene Find May Ward Off $1 Billion Pest, University of Missouri and Southern Illinois University Study

Scientists have identified a soybean gene responsible for making some varieties resistant to the cyst nematode, a pest responsible for $1 billion in annual crop losses. The gene wards off nematodes by making an enzyme that starves the pest or acts as a natural pesticide, according to a paper released today in the journal Nature. The study is the first to identify the gene and its mechanism for creating resistance, said lead authors Melissa Mitchum of the University of Missouri in Columbia and Khalid Meksem of Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. The soybean cyst nematode can cut crop yields 50 percent and cause $1 billion in losses in the $42.2 billion annual U.S. crop, making it the top soybean pathogen, Greg Tylka, a plant pathology professor at Iowa State University. Knowing which gene is responsible for natural resistance will help breeders identify the hardiest varieties and could lead to genetically modified soybeans with complete resistance, he said.

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