2Blades Foundation Newsletter
Issue 8 | February 2019
Building a sustainable platform for fighting crop disease
Diana Horvath

Durability is key to our strategy for tackling crop disease, and it's an important principle that we are embedding in our organizational structure as well, with the formation of a new advisory body - the 2Blades Sustainability Council.

The Council will support the mission of 2Blades by assisting in the implementation of its programs and the expansion of its funding base. Among other tasks, the Council will help 2Blades to deliver on more than fifteen years of progress in advancing resilient crops by raising the visibility of the organization and fostering connections to business networks and funding opportunities.

By taking these steps, we're building a platform from which to durably fight crop disease.
2Blades Sustainability Forum and new Sustainability Council
In December, 2Blades convened a forum in Chicago, IL, on the under-recognized impacts of crop disease on food security and efforts to accelerate new genetic solutions from the laboratory to the field. The meeting brought together an excellent mix of individuals from the worlds of research, policy, development, farming, media, and business, producing a high caliber discussion of the challenges and strategies to overcome them.

The forum was also the first meeting and launch of the Sustainability Council. We're delighted to announce and welcome the inaugural group: Euler Bropleh, Jon Entine, Frank O'Keefe, Katie Pratt, Tom Turpen, Maria Velissariou, and Sylvia Wulf. By supporting 2Blades efforts to get improved seeds in the hands of growers, the Council contributes to a future where everyone has enough to eat and where food is produced in a sustainable system that protects natural resources. More

There are still openings for people with a passion for sustainability, science, and agriculture to join the Council, as well as other ways to get involved and help support our mission. Please contact me to find out more at dmh@2blades.org.
Wheat lines from 2Blades, CSIRO, and UMN exhibit exceptional stem rust resistance in the field

Wheat stem rust is one of the world’s most devastating plant diseases. Stem rust resistance achieved by conventional breeding was first introduced during the Green Revolution in the 1950s. It controlled the disease worldwide for more than forty years, but new rust strains have evolved that defeat this resistance and threaten harvests again. Since 2008, 2Blades has led an international wheat rust consortium with the aim of fighting wheat stem and stripe rusts by sourcing and combining resistance genes from wheat and its relatives.

Recently, Dr. Mick Ayliffe’s group at CSIRO in Australia developed wheat carrying a gene 'stack' of five independent genes for stem rust resistance. These lines were tested in the field for the first time this past summer by Prof. Brian Steffenson at the University of Minnesota and showed very strong resistance to stem rust. More
(Left) Drs. Oadi Matny, Melania Figueroa, (Prof). Brian Steffenson, and Peter Dodds discussing the wheat trial. (Right) The stem rust susceptible wheat variety Fielder (left) in comparison to a derived Fielder line (right) with a five-gene stack of resistance genes.
" In my 30 years of conducting stem rust experiments in the field, I have never seen a clearer demonstration of the effectiveness of host resistance against this devastating disease - conferred in this case by a five-gene cassette of resistance genes transferred by genetic engineering. Worldwide, the rusts of wheat cause more than $3 billion in losses each year. I view the development of disease and insect resistant crops by genetic engineering to be our best hope in feeding the 9 billion people that will occupy the earth by the year 2050. " - Prof. Brian Steffenson (University of Minnesota).
2Blades publicly releases additional resistance gene DNA sequence data

As part of our  program to characterize resistance gene diversity  present in three important plant families, we have released the DNA sequences of a collection of disease resistance genes from 66 traditional and modern varieties of rice, as well as gene sequences for tomato and a dozen of its wild and cultivated relatives. The open access datasets are now available for interrogation by the wider plant science community, and it is our hope that the data will shed light on important questions about protein functional domains and evolution of disease resistance in plants in response to ever-changing disease pressures. More

Crop disease in the headlines

If you’d been watching closely, you might have spotted your orange juice bottle getting empty a little quicker recently. There is no mystery OJ guzzler at large, but a different kind of thief - citrus greening ( Candidatus Liberibacter spp . ) and citrus canker ( Xanthomonas axonopodis ) . These diseases have hit orange production so badly that juice manufacturers have downsized their bottles. 

One more cup of coffee for the road? A recent study from Kew Gardens has brought that next sip into sharp focus by showing that up to 60% of the world’s coffee species are under threat of extinction, in part due to the spread of coffee rust ( Gibberella xylarioides ) and coffee wilt disease ( Hemileia vastatrix ). In addition to the two main commercial species, Arabica and Robusta, many wild relatives that could be a source of genetic variety are in danger. Furthermore, since there are a staggering 100 million coffee farmers worldwide (1 in 77 humans), coffee diseases threaten not only your next cappuccino but also the livelihoods of millions of people. 
New Blade!

Will Buswell joins 2Blades fresh from completing his PhD research at the University of Sheffield. During his studies, he used a range of genetic and analytical chemistry techniques to dissect plant acquired immunity, taking in placements at the University of Queensland and Universitat Jaume I. Will aims to contribute to our communication and media work, helping to raise the profile of 2Blades projects around the world. Welcome Will!
Upcoming Events
Connect with 2Blades at these upcoming events:

March 14th, Chicago, IL

April 10 th -11 th Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN

Institute of Food Technologists: IFT19 Feed Your Future
June 2 nd -5 th New Orleans, LA

July 14 th -18 th Glasgow, UK
Discovering, advancing, and delivering durable genetic resistance to crop disease