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Science Scene: ‘Studying basil diseases to help U.S. producers’
Researchers combine techniques to protect sweet basil from pathogens
Basil is the most important commercially grown herb crop in the United States; its essential oils are used in applications frommedicineto skin care products and soft drinks. Currently basil production in the U.S. isthreatened by the recently introduced plant pathogens Peronosporabelbahrii, which causes downy mildew, and Fusariumoxysporum, which causes Fusarium wilt.
As a team of UMass faculty with expertise in genomics, biophysics, and plant pathology, we were awarded a grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study these two basil diseases as part of NIFA’s specialty crop research for the development of high-tech solutions that meet the needs of U.S. farmers and processors. Part of an integrated national team that combines applied and basic research, our UMass team is focusing on plant resistance genes, pathogen effectors secreted by the fungi and the molecular mechanisms of plant-pathogen interactions using genomics, biophysics and plant pathology.
Currently it is not well understood how proteins secreted by pathogens(also called effectors),overcome resistance of plants andanimals. Our research aims to provide new insights into host-pathogen interactions that will develop improved tools for studying these interactions and genetically improve plant resistance. We will look closely at host-pathogen interactions with a combination of genetic, biochemical and biophysical techniques.