Researchers at Warwick University have uncovered the genetic basis of a broad-spectrum resistance to Turnip Mosaic Virus, an infection that, in some parts of the world, is the most serious pathogen affecting leafy and arable brassica crops including broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, swede and oilseed rape. They are now working with the agrisciences company Syngenta Seeds to breed this resistance gene into Chinese cabbage, and hope to do the same with other crops such as broccoli, cabbage and kale.
The scientists, led by John Walsh, have tested resistant plants against a range of different strains of the virus taken from all over the world and to date, no strain has been able to overcome the resistance.
Walsh said Turnip Mosaic Virus, “Can cause significant yield losses and often leaves an entire crop unfit for marketing. At best, a field of badly affected Brussels sprouts might provide some animal fodder, but these vegetables would not be appealing to most shoppers. The virus is particularly difficult to control because it is transmitted so rapidly to plants by insect vectors.”
After identifying the major gene involved in resistance to the virus, the researchers discovered that the way in which it creates resistance is completely new. Using this knowledge, they identified plants with an inherent resistance that could be used to speed up the breeding process in the development of commercial varieties that are resistant to the virus.