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USDA ARS Scientists Discover Gene That Increases Wheat Resistance to Fusarium Head Blight

Scientists with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) of the USDA have discovered a gene (Fhb7) that can be used to breed wheat varieties that have enhanced resistance to Fusarium head blight (FHB), also known as scab.

Caused by a fungal pathogen called Fusarium graminearum, FHB not only causes losses to wheat crops across the U.S., China, Canada, Europe, and beyond, but also attacks barley and oats, and when unchecked, can lead to illness in humans and weight loss in livestock.

The prevalence and severity of FHB outbreaks could also be intensified by climate change and volatile weather, and trends that lean toward greater corn production and no till farming practices, which increases the presence of the pathogen in fields.

Fhb7 was originally discovered in wheatgrass, and has been found to effectively reduce FHB by detoxifying the mycotoxins secreted by the pathogen. It has also been found to give resistance to crown rot, another wheat disease caused by a related pathogen.

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