Indiana University biology professor Roger Innes is part of a research team to receive a $1.2 million grant to develop disease-resistant wheat and barley. The funding comes from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
The researchers are specifically focused on Fusarium Head Blight which threatens wheat production worldwide. FHB not only reduces yield and grain quality, but it can contaminate grain with mycotoxins. When that happens, the grain is unusable for human food or livestock feed.
This disease is currently controlled mainly using heavy applications of fungicides. The researchers are using genome editing technology to alter the plant immune system, making it resistant to infection.
If successful, the researchers hope to use the genetic-based approach to reduce the use of fungicides and pesticides on grain crops.
Innes is collaborating with USDA molecular biologist Matthew Helm, who is located at Purdue University, and a lab in the United Kingdom.