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Scientists Clone First Disease-Resistant Gene From Crop Plant

November 26, 1993

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) _ Scientists have cloned the first disease-resistant gene from a crop plant in research that could one day reduce the need for pesticides.

The cloning is the first time a disease-resistant gene has been cloned and moved from one crop variety to another, according to researchers from Purdue and Cornell universities whose findings appear in Friday’s issue of Science magazine.

The research could decrease the need for pesticides by the turn of the century and improve disease resistance in a variety of crops, the scientists said.

″Unlike other methods of creating disease-resistant plants, where a bacterial gene is moved into plants, here we have taken a gene from a disease- resistant tomato plant and moved it into a susceptible tomato plant,″ said Greg Martin, assistant professor of agronomy at Purdue University and lead investigator on the three-year project funded by the National Science Foundation.

″The benefit to the general public is that disease-resistance genes already existing in plants offer the best forms of pest control for agriculture. This inherent disease resistance means fewer pesticides will be needed.″

The cloned gene alerts the plant’s defense mechanism to the presence of a bacterium that causes a disease known as ″bacteria speck″ in some varieties of tomatoes.

Martin predicted the isolation of disease-resistance genes would bring improved varieties of crops in about five years.

″This research shows that these new tools of biotechnology are now sufficiently advanced to bring useful products to the marketplace,″ said Bill Baumgardt, chairman of the national Agricultural Biotechnology council and director of Purdue’s Office of Agricultural Research Programs.

The research project was the first to apply techniques to crop genetics from the Human Genome Project, an effort to map all human genes.

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