Researchers combine techniques to protect sweet basil from pathogens

Science Scene: ‘Studying basil diseases to help U.S. producers’

Researchers combine techniques to protect sweet basil from pathogens

November 27, 2018

Li-Jun Ma, Associate Professor, and Anne Gershenson, Research Associate Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Robert Wick, Professor of Plant Pathology and Nematology  


What’s the big idea? 

Basil is the most important commercially grown herb crop in the United States; its essential oils are used in applications from medicine to skin care products and soft drinks. Currently basil production in the U.S. is threatened by the recently introduced plant pathogens Peronospora belbahrii, which causes downy mildew, and Fusarium oxysporum, 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.  

What happens next? 

Currently it is not well understood how proteins secreted by pathogens (also called effectors), overcome resistance of plants and animals. 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. 

Our research will also develop molecular tools for marker assisted resistant cultivar selection to support the basil industry, which will accelerate the application of scientific discovery and technology, making U.S. producers more competitive in a global market.  

Read on: 
NIFA award 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of UMass Amherst or the College of Natural Sciences.

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