Integrating Large-Scale Data and RNA Technology to Protect Crops from Fungal Pathogens.

With a rapidly growing human population it is expected that plant science researchers and the agricultural community will need to increase food productivity using less arable land. This challenge is complicated by fungal pathogens and diseases, many of which can severely impact crop yield. Current measures to control fungal pathogens are either ineffective or have adverse effects on the agricultural enterprise. Thus, developing new strategies through research innovation to protect plants from pathogenic fungi is necessary to overcome these hurdles. RNA sequencing technologies are increasing our understanding of the underlying genes and gene regulatory networks mediating disease outcomes. The application of invigorating next generation sequencing strategies to study plant-pathogen interactions has and will provide unprecedented insight into the complex patterns of gene activity responsible for crop protection. However, questions remain about how biological processes in both the pathogen and the host are specified in space directly at the site of infection and over the infection period. The integration of cutting edge molecular and computational tools will provide plant scientists with the arsenal required to identify genes and molecules that play a role in plant protection. Large scale RNA sequence data can then be used to protect plants by targeting genes essential for pathogen viability in the production of stably transformed lines expressing RNA interference molecules, or through foliar applications of double stranded RNA.

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