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Reduction of nematicide use by introducing second-generation resistance genes in major European crops

Contract nr: FAIR-CT98-4235
Project nr: 4235
Project type: SC
Starting date: 01/02/1999
Duration: 36 months
Total cost: 1,922,147 EUR
EC Contribution: 1,359,190 EUR
Scientific Officer: Massimo BURIONI
Research topic: Plant health

Plant pathogenic nematodes form one of the most serious threats to modern agricultural practice. Almost all major crop species can be attacked by nematodes, and the losses in European potato and sugar-beet production already exceed 110.000 kEURO per year. Nematode control relies heavily on the use of highly toxic pesticides, which results in the application by European farmers of an estimated 10.000 tonnes of nematicides (active compounds) each year. This practice imposes an increasing burden on the environment.

The overall objectives of this project are:
(1) To increase the natural resistance of major European crops against nematodes;
(2) To isolate a set of plant genes, referred to as `second-generation resistance genes', which will be used to endow sugar-beet and potato varieties with resistance against plant pathogenic nematodes;
(3) To reduce the use of pesticides in Europe, as well as lowering the production costs for farmers. The natural plant genes obtained will have a superior performance compared to already available resistance genes, giving a durable resistance against a wide spectrum of pathogenic nematodes. Also, detailed knowledge about the way plants defend themselves against pathogens will be gathered, which will help to safeguard the successful introduction of the isolated genes into modern agriculture.

In the framework of the EC-AIR programme, our partnership (project AIR2-CT93-1206) recently succeeded in the cloning of the first nematode resistance gene from a plant species (Cai et al. (1997) Science 275, pp.832-834). This gene, the Hs1 gene from sugar-beet, will now be used to isolate second-generation resistance genes from the defence pathways that plants use to protect themselves against pathogenic nematodes.
1. Sugar-beet, tomato and Arabidopsis plants which all are endowed with the Hs1 gene will be infected with the beet cyst nematode Heterodera schachtii.
2. Genes that are specifically induced after the onset of plant defence will be identified and subsequently cloned using two novel technologies: cDNA-AFLPTM and Yeast Two-Hybrid Screenings.
3. Bio-informatics will be used to make an in-depth analysis of the genes obtained, and will allow a selection of those genes that have the greatest potential to act as novel resistance genes.
4. These genes will be equipped with specific promoters and subsequently used for the transformation of potato and sugar-beet.
5. The transgenic plant materials obtained will be subjected to a detailed nematological analysis. Roots will be infected with several pathogenic nematode species and the performance of the respective second-generation resistance genes will be evaluated under lab conditions.
6. The plant materials showing full nematode resistance in these tests will be selected for field trials. These trials will be initiated in the course of this proposal, and will be continued after the completion of the project.
7. Property rights of the obtained genes and transgenic plants will be secured, whereafter commercialisation of these materials will be carried out by the industrial partners in the project. The project focuses on plant disease problems of major environmental and economic interest. The development of a rapid procedure to obtain plant varieties with a broad and durable resistance by the introduction of naturally occurring plant genes will enable a strong reduction in the use of pesticides in Europe. This, in turn, will have a profound beneficial effect on the environment, especially in areas of potato and sugar-beet cultivation. The economic benefits for the farmers in the European Community will be considerable if durable, broad-spectrum resistance is available in crop cultivars. The cost of plant protection will be greatly reduced and the availability of economically sound alternatives to the use of pesticides increases the competitiveness of European agriculture. Also, this project is expected to fuel the development of new plant varieties by European breeding companies.

Plant Research International (previously known as: DLO-Centre for Plant Breeding and Reproduction Research)
Droevendaalsesteeg 1
NL-6700 AA Wageningen
Tel.: +31 317 47 71 16
Fax: +31 317 41 80 94


  • Reinhard NEHLS
    Planta Angewandte Pflanzengenetik und Biotechnologie GmbH
    Grimsehlstrasse 31
    D-37555 Einbeck
    Tel.: +49 556 131 14 73
    Fax: +49 556 131 12 43

  • Kjeld MARCKER
    University of Aarhus
    Laboratory of Gene Expression
    Dept. of Molecular and Structural Biology
    Science Park Aarhus
    Gustav Wieds Vej 10
    DK-8000 Aarhus C.
    Tel.: +45 89 42 50 17
    Fax: +45 89 12 31 78

  • Georg KOCH
    A. Dieckmann-Heimburg Saatzucht Suelbeck
    Kirchhorster Strasse 16
    D-31684 Nienstaedt
    Tel.: +49 057 249 51 90
    Fax: +49 057 249 51 977

  • Christian JUNG
    Christian-Albrechts-Universitat Kiel Public Corporation
    Olshausenstrasse 40
    D-24098 Kiel
    Tel.: +49 431 880 73 64
    Fax: +49 431 880 25 66

  • Jorn Dalgaard MIKKELSEN
    Danisco Cultor Innovation
    Langebrogade 1
    DK-1001 Copenhagen K
    Tel.: +45 32 66 22 00
    Fax: +45 32 66 21 67

  • Mark Stephen PHILLIPS
    Scottish Crop Research Institute (a company limited by guarantee and having charitable status)
    UK-DD2 5DA Dundee
    Tel.: +44 1382 56 27 31
    Fax: +44 1382 56 24 26
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