High-yielding cereals and other staples have produced adequate calories to ward off starvation for much of the world over several decades. However, deficiencies in certain amino acids, minerals, vitamins and fatty acids in staple crops, and animal diets derived from them, have aggravated the problem of malnutrition and the increasing incidence of certain chronic diseases in nominally well-nourished people (the so-called diseases of civilization). Enhanced global nutrition has great potential to reduce acute and chronic disease, the need for health care, the cost of health care, and to increase educational attainment, economic productivity and the quality of life. However, nutrition is currently not an important driver of most plant breeding efforts, and there are only a few well-known efforts to breed crops that are adapted to the needs of optimal human nutrition. Technological tools are available to greatly enhance the nutritional value of our staple crops. However, enhanced nutrition in major crops might only be achieved if nutritional traits are introduced in tandem with important agronomic yield drivers, such as resistance to emerging pests or diseases, to drought and salinity, to herbicides, parasitic plants, frost or heat. In this way we might circumvent a natural tendency for high yield and low production cost to effectively select against the best human nutrition. Here we discuss the need and means for agriculture, food processing, food transport, sociology, nutrition and medicine to be integrated into new approaches to food production with optimal human nutrition as a principle goal.
Striga hermonthica (witchweed) is a parasitic weed that attacks and significantly reduces the yields of maize, sorghum, millet, and sugarcane throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Low cost management methods such as hand weeding, short crop rotations, trap cropping, or conventional biocontrol have not been effective. Likewise, Striga-tolerant or herbicide-resistant maize cultivars are higher yielding, but are often beyond the economic means of sustenance farmers. The fungal pathogen, Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. strigae, has been the object of numerous studies to develop Striga biocontrol. Under experimental conditions this pathogen can reduce the incidence of Striga infestation but field use is not extensive, perhaps because it has not been sufficiently effective in restoring crop yield and reducing the soil Striga seed bank. Here we brought together Kenyan and US crop scientists with smallholder farmers to develop and validate an effective biocontrol strategy for management of Striga on smallholder farms. Key components of this research project were the following: (1) Development of a two-step method of fungal delivery, including laboratory coating of primary inoculum on toothpicks, followed by on-farm production of secondary field inoculum in boiled rice enabling delivery of vigorous, fresh inoculum directly to the seedbed; (2) Training of smallholder farmers (85% women), to produce the biocontrol agent and incorporate it into their maize plantings in Striga-infested soils and collect agronomic data. The field tests expanded from 30 smallholder farmers to a two-season, 500-farmer plot trial including paired plus and minus biocontrol plots with fertilizer and hybrid seed in both plots and; (3) Concerted selection of variants of the pathogen identified for enhanced virulence, as has been demonstrated in other host parasite systems were employed here on Striga via pathogen excretion of the amino acids L-leucine and L-tyrosine that are toxic to Striga but innocuous to maize. This overall strategy resulted in an average of >50% increased maize yield in the March to June rains season and >40% in the September to December rains season. Integration of this enhanced plant pathogen to Striga management in maize can significantly increase the maize yield of smallholder farmers in Kenya.
A considerable number of plant pathogens have been studied for their possible use in weed control. Some have proven virulent enough to control weed species and to compete commercially with chemical herbicides. However, most pathogens of weeds are not useful in their wild form because they are not sufficiently host-specific and/or virulent. The authors believe that these barriers can be overcome. The present research has focused on the inhibitory effects of certain amino acids on the growth and development of specific plants. Pathogens that overproduce these selected amino acids can be easily selected from a pool of spontaneous mutants. Such mutants can have increased pathogenicity to their target weed and enhanced field performance as biocontrol agents. Enhancement of biocontrol efficacy in three separate pathogen-host systems, two with Fusarium and one with Pseudomonas, has already been reported. It is proposed to use the same technology to enhance the biocontrol efficacy of the two species of Fusarium that are host-specific pathogens of the broomrape group of parasitic weeds. The stepwise approach outlined can lead to obtaining enhanced biocontrol agents capable of producing inhibitory levels of selected amino acids in situ. It is proposed that these approaches, in combination with other methods of virulence enhancement, will lead to sustainable systems of biological control of parasitic weeds.
A new forma specialis of Fusarium oxysporum (F. oxysporum f. sp. erythroxyli) pathogenic to Erythroxylum coca and E. novogranatense is described. The pathogen was isolated from the vascular tissue of diseased plants from an Erythroxylum plantation in Hawaii. This pathogen causes vascular wilt symptoms and death in both E. coca and E. novogranatense plants as soon as 7 weeks after soil infestation. The pathogenicity of seven isolates from the affected field was determined in field and growth-chamber studies. Genetic variation was not detected among the seven Hawaiian isolates, using arbitrarily primed polymerase chain reaction. The seven isolates could be differentiated from a strain isolated from a diseased E. coca plant from South America. All Hawaiian isolates and the South American isolate belonged to a single vegetative compatibility group.
scite is a Brooklyn-based startup that helps researchers better discover and understand research articles through Smart Citations–citations that display the context of the citation and describe whether the article provides supporting or contrasting evidence. scite is used by students and researchers from around the world and is funded in part by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health.