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Dr. Viet isolates the anti-rust gene in barley

Hoan Dinh, PhD, University of Sydney, isolated the gene sequence that makes barley resistant to rust, a disease that reduces global food production by 10%.

Hoan Dinh, the son of a Vietnamese farmer, who received an Australian scholarship and graduated with a doctorate from the University of Sydney, discovered and sequenced a gene that protects crops such as wheat and barley against rust. fungal iron.

“The first time I found this gene, I was very worried that I had done something wrong, because it was so unusual. Most of the resistance genes belong to a different gene family,” Dinh said in an interview published in the journal Guardian of the UK on June 7.

Vietnamese Doctor Hoan Dinh at the University of Sydney.  Photo: Hoan Dinh

Vietnamese Doctor Hoan Dinh at the University of Sydney. Image: Guardians.

Dr. Dinh, who is working as a postdoctoral fellow in Japan, said he had isolated this gene from a genome consisting of 5 million base pairs. The findings were published in the journal Nature Communications last month.

Dinh said that the reason that motivated him to study agriculture was to witness the hardships of farmers in the fields in childhood. He said the biggest difference between Vietnamese and Australian agriculture is that in Vietnam, most farm work is done by human power, while in Australia, farmers mainly work by machines.

Professor Robert Park, Dinh’s instructor, president of the Judith & David Coffey Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture and Director of Rust Research at the University of Sydney, said the students’ hard work had paid off.

However, isolating genes is just the beginning. The Vietnamese doctor then set out to “learn how genes work to make plants stronger. That’s when the story started to get interesting”.

According to Professor Park, scientists have identified 28 genes for resistance to rust in barley, but only four genes have been isolated, of which three are carried out by the Plant Breeding Institute of the University of Sydney.

“I was surprised by this finding. It shows our limited understanding of resistance genes and which ones are really resilient against rust pathogens,” said Lee Hickey, an associate professor, study. senior research fellow at the University of Queensland’s Center for Crop Science.

This gene was known and used in Australia to protect barley against leaf rust, but was overwhelmed by a new pathogen in 2009. The pathogen was likened by Professor Park to resistance to the Covid vaccine. -19 when new strains are constantly appearing.

“The rust fungus defeats the disease resistance gene, but we still want to understand how the gene works to see if it can be deployed with other genes, or if it can be altered by changing its gene sequence to stimulate the immune system.” effective disease resistance or not,” Park said.

This research gives us a deeper understanding of how plants protect themselves from pathogens, he said. This knowledge is “really important because pathogens significantly reduce global food production. It is estimated that we lose 20-25% of food production each year due to pathogens and pests”, the teacher said. Master Park said.

Brett Hosking, barley farmer and president of Grain Growers Australia, says rust usually occurs in barley as winter is coming to an end and spring is approaching. Rust in wheat and barley costs Australian farmers $250 million a year due to lost yields and the purchase of fungicides.

About 70% of the world’s barley is used for animal feed, the rest is used in beer and food production. Chemicals to treat rust have the potential to enter the food chain.

Professor Park said genetics is a cleaner, greener way to control pathogens, and scientists’ work can be helped by linkages with professions.

He said the Ukraine conflict is disrupting supply chains, affecting wheat production and could have a huge impact on the world. Meanwhile, Associate Professor Hickey said that knowing more about disease resistance genes could help increase crop yields and improve the sustainability of agricultural systems.

Hong Hanh (Follow Guardian)

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