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Nematode Research on the Rise

From Cotton Grower Magazine – November 2014

 

With two major herbicide trait technology advancements scheduled for introduction over the next two years, it’s clear that weed control has driven the research and development industry recently. XtendFlex technology from Monsanto and the Enlist Weed Control System from Dow AgroSciences will no doubt make major waves in cotton in the near future.

But a quick glimpse at the variety pipelines of each of the major seed companies reveals that another cotton pest – the nematode – has been a major force behind a massive amount of research in recent years.

“We lost Temik a couple years ago, so variety selection is key in terms of our nematode-management options,” says Scott Fuchs, cotton development specialist for PhytoGen. Fuchs was describing the characteristics of two new PhytoGen varieties, PHY 417 WRF and PHY 427 WRF, which feature nematode resistance.

“We have taken two native genes, and bred those into our germplasm, and we are seeing root-knot nematode resistance with this product where we are able to reduce test populations by up to 80 or 90 percent,” Fuchs says.

The other seed companies have used similar methods to combat the pest. Nematode-focused research has by and large come about solely through breeding programs from each of the companies. For its part, Deltapine has significantly increased the volume of its nematode research plots.

“This year, the breeding group has hundreds and hundreds of plots across West Texas so that they can find varieties that are resistant to root-knot nematodes,” says Jorge Cuarezma, Deltapine technology development manager for West Texas. “This is done through molecular markers. It’s about finding the gene that is resistant to root-knot nematodes.”

In 2014 Deltapine introduced a new variety, DP 1454NR B2RF which features nematode resistance. Cuarezma says the company is currently evaluating two more varieties that could be featured in the Class of 15, stressing that Deltapine nematode-resistant varieties are tested to ensure they yield competitively both in the presence of nematode pressure and without nematode pressure.

“This is known as yield parity, and each Deltapine nematode-resistant variety must display it in order to be chosen for advancement,” Cuarezma says.

Bayer CropScience representatives are also utilizing molecular markers to identify and utilize the nematode-tolerant genes in their cotton variety lines.

“The loss of Temik did increase the work that we were doing to develop nematode-tolerant varieties,” says David Becker, Bayer U.S. breeding lead for cotton. “And important to us in developing nematode-tolerant varieties are our molecular breeding capabilities.”

A recent release, FiberMax FM 2011GT, demonstrated strong root-knot nematode tolerance, laying the groundwork for Bayer CropScience researchers to examine the variety’s genetic background to help identify the nematode-tolerant gene or genes. Company representatives say growers can expect more nematode-tolerant variety releases, possibly as soon as 2016.

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