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Plant Genomics

Bridging the policy-practice divide in genome-editing for agriculture

Regulation of emerging technology such as genome editing has mainly focused on responding to the consequences of innovation. The classical regulatory model of “identification-quantification-assessment-safety management” takes a risk-oriented approach to regulation of emerging technology and focuses on constraining the practice of science based on ethics, and administrative and risk management procedures.

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Navigating the European Court of Justice stance on GMOs

“The breeder’s dream is, of course, of an agency which would enable him to produce at will a particular kind of mutation uncontaminated by others which would merely be a nuisance to him….”

“There is as yet no indication from genetics of how, or even whether, this could be done… The dream of directed mutation as a tool in stock and crop improvement is still very much a dream”

These words were part of a lecture given by the well-known geneticist Kenneth Mather at the John Innes Institute in 1960. Now, after more than 50 years of research, his dream of directed mutation has become a reality.

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What kind of plant genes allow crops to shape the rhizosphere microbiota?

In my lab we aim to decipher the genetic basis of plant-microbe interactions taking place at the root-soil interface, in the so called “rhizosphere”. Microbes in this environment, collectively referred to as the rhizosphere microbiota, can enhance mineral mobilisation for plant uptake and crop protection, thereby representing a yet untapped resource for sustainable agriculture.

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Utilising Machine Learning Models to transform Plant Genomics

A lot of machine learning is used in technology such as Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri, or to get rid of spam in your email inbox. Deep learning and rapid development of this technology enables us to solve image classification problems – e.g. “does this picture contain a dog or a cat?”. Also, artificial intelligence is set to soon replace many human jobs – in the darkest views, it might even pose an existential threat to the human race.

What repercussions do these developments have for genome-related research and in particular plant genomics?

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How CRISPR/Cas9 can help unravel Salt Stress Responses in Rice

Soil salinity affects a large amount of arable land and is one of the major causes of crop yield reduction worldwide. Rice, a major food crop feeding more than half of the world, is highly susceptible to salinity stress. Developing salt-stress tolerant rice cultivars is essential to sustain world rice production. The major focus of my research at the Maathuis Lab in the Biology Department of the University of York is looking for key players in the complex molecular networks responsible for rice salt-tolerance, and understanding their mode(s) of action.

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Integrating breeding technologies to supercharge future crops

The inspiration for the development of ‘Speed Breeding’ came from the first food product designed and purposefully bred for growing in space, a variety of wheat called USU-Apogee. Because there is not much space inside the spacecraft, they needed to maximise the number of wheat plants and grow them very quickly.

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Major resistance genes in cereals

Cereal crops, such as wheat, maize, rice, barley, sorghum and millets, account for more than half of the global harvest and provide staple foods around the world.

However, viruses, bacteria, water moulds and fungi can limit access to nutrients, reduce yields and can even cause entire crops to fail. Some diseases can also produce toxins that are harmful to humans and animals. To protect food security, identifying disease resistant genes is crucial.

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The Top 5 Plant Genomics Articles of 2018

It has been an eventful year for plant genomics: we’ve seen advancements in plant disease research, the sequencing of the wheat genome, which was finally achieved through a worldwide collaboration of researchers spanning 13 years, and the ruling on the legal status of gene-edited crops. 

As 2018 draws to a close, we thought it was a good time to reflect. Here, we’ve collated our top articles of the year.

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