A technique already used to fight viral diseases has been put to lab-scale tests that show it can help canola plants fight off sclerotinia and other fungi.
University of Alberta biochemist Nat Kav and his research team introduced an antibody gene into a plant to see if it would have any effect against sclerotinia stem rot.
Canola plants with the new gene were found to have a “high degree” of tolerance to the disease, slowing its progression and limiting its severity, the U of A said in a release.
But the technique also appears to have spurred the same reaction in the gene-altered canola plants against two other fungal diseases, blackleg and alternaria black spot.
Kav’s findings showed the genetically modified (GM) canola plants could tolerate the disease to the point where the stems don’t break, the plants remain healthy and strong enough to be harvested, and canola yields are unaffected, the U of A reported.
Kav said he’s also testing his GM plants for resistance to Alberta’s most-feared canola disease, clubroot. That study is seen as complementing other research at U of A, aimed at breeding clubroot-resistant canola.
What’s more, the U of A noted, the work by Kav’s team could have an even broader impact worldwide, if the sclerotinia-resistant gene in question can be put to the test against the disease in other susceptible crops, such as carrots, oats, corn, sweet peas, broccoli, cauliflower or any of about 400 others.