Improving Comerical Crops Resistance to Fungal infections Like Stem Rot &Blossom Blight


White mold disease is caused by the fungus Sclerotinia sclerotiorum and it affects more than 400 plant species, both in the field and post harvest. This fungus is a necrotrophic fungus, in other words, it kills host cells in order to release nutrients necessary for its growth and survival.

It is commonly known as stem rot, cottony rot, watery soft rot, drop, crown rot and blossom blight and alone accounts for millions of dollars of lost income to farmers and has been a problem for northern Nevada growers.

There is a concerted effort, worldwide, to identify genetic resistance to stem rot. To date, no complete resistance to this fungus exists, but partial resistance has been discovered in specific cultivars of crop plants like peas. Chemical management practices are costly, unsafe for farm workers, and losing their efficacy. Integrating plant chemical defenses into breeding programs and biotechnology efforts is a promising route for improving plant resistance to pathogens like S. sclerotiorum.

The US carrot crop has an annual value of $820 million (USDA NASS 2016) and is the seventh most-consumed vegetable crop in this country. For the longest time, carrots have been said to have health benefits including antimicrobial properties.

Although the health benefits have been investigated by health scientists, the genetics underlying the production of specific, beneficial antimicrobial compounds in carrots remains poorly understood. More specifically, carrots produce the compounds falcarinol and falcarindiol that are thought to have antifungal properties against plant and human pathogens. Although they have been described in primary literature for decades, their role in plant disease resistance and the genetic basis of their biosynthesis remains poorly understood.

Carrot will be employed as an agro-economically relevant model species to comprehend resistance to S. sclerotiorum in the context of falcarinol and falcarindiol production.