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Exploiting natural resistance to Turnip yellows virus in oilseed rape

Funded by the BBSRC, research at Warwick has identified sources of resistance to Turnip yellows virus in oilseed rape. The growing of virus-resistant plants will improve food security and reduce pesticide inputs and residues in vegetables.

Background

Plant viruses are a major constraint limiting crop production worldwide. Oilseed rape is an important food stuff and is also used in crop rotation. However, when infected by Turnip yellows virus (TuYV), plants become stunted and have a reduced yield. Known as ‘the unseen virus’ it often gives little or no symptoms, so growers are unaware that it is present. There is a high incidence of Turnip yellows virus in both the UK and Europe due to its method of transmission. Around 85% of aphids can carry Turnip yellows virus. Once the greenfly acquires the virus it has it for the rest of it's life and transmits it to whatever plant it feeds on. Farmers find it difficult to control the aphids as they readily become resistant to insecticides. Professor John Walsh and his team therefore looked at exploiting sources of natural plant virus resistance.

Impact

The team have identified sources of resistance in oilseed rape and lines of the diploid progenitors of oilseed rape; QTLs associated with the three resistance sources have been mapped. All three resistances have been shown to be effective against viral isolates representing the different genetic groups of the virus. The diversity of the virus across Europe has been investigated with 179 whole genomes sequenced, detailed phylogenetic analyses performed, new weed hosts identified and a full-length infectious clone of the virus generated.

The natural plant resistance avoids the need for chemical inputs into the environment and increases yield on average by 30%.

Dr Max Newbert and Professor John Walsh describe their research in the videos below:

Future

Work has begun to cross lines with commercial varieties to produce plant lines usable for industry, in the field, to increase yield.

Professor Walsh comments:
“The growing of virus-resistant plants will improve food security and reduce pesticide inputs and residues in vegetables. Developing crops with durable disease resistance is a long-winded process but is the most sustainable approach to disease control.”

OSR

Field of oilseed rape