CROP SCIENCE

Crop resistance to parasites

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Science  12 May 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6338, pp. 595-596
DOI: 10.1126/science.356.6338.595-c

Witchweed (Striga) is a parasitic plant that devastates arable crops in the tropics.

PHOTO: GEBISA EJETA

The parasitic weed Striga infests a large proportion of cereal crops in Africa and parts of Asia, which has a devastating effect on farming, particularly in subsistence communities. An obligate parasite, Striga requires a chemical signal from the host plant to germinate, offering an avenue for genetic improvement of host crops. Gobena et al. studied the difference between sorghum strains associated with high and low Striga germination levels and mapped a mutation associated with low Striga germination (LGS1) to a previously uncharacterized sulfotransferase gene. Deletion of this gene does not result in reduced levels of root chemical signaling, but rather in a change in the composition of chemicals exuded from the root. Identification of this gene could allow marker-assisted breeding to generate sorghum varieties with reduced Striga infestation.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 114, 4471 (2017).

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