Paper on using genome-editing tools to develop climate-smart banana varieties among the top-most downloaded

While banana is an important staple crop feeding more than 500 million people in the tropical and subtropical countries, its production is negatively affected by a myriad of factors including diseases and pests, declining soil fertility, and climate change.

IITA’s Principal Scientist in Plant Biotechnology, Leena Tripathi

Efforts to develop improved disease resistant and drought tolerant banana varieties are, however, slowed down by the low genetic variability, lengthy production cycle, and sterility of a majority of the cultivars commonly grown by farmers.

Therefore, banana scientists are exploring how to use modern breeding tools to complement conventional breeding to enhance the ability of banana to adapt to climate change by resisting both biotic and abiotic stresses.

A team from CGIAR-IITA reviewed the recent developments and the prospects for application of genetic modification and genome editing for developing climate-smart banana.

They summarized their findings in the paper, Application of genetic modification and genome editing for developing climate-smart banana (https://doi.org/10.1002/fes3.168), published in the March 2019 edition of Food and Energy Security and which has been among the most downloaded papers in the journal.

IITA’s Principal Scientist in Plant Biotechnology, Leena Tripathi, led the research team. Others involved in the study were Valentine Otang Ntui, IITA’s Plant Biotechnologist, and Jaindra Nath Tripathi, IITA’s Banana Transformation Specialist. The team has received a certificate of achievement from the publishers.

Tripathi says the team was delighted with the performance of the paper as reported by the publisher. In a congratulatory note, the publisher stated: “Among work published between January 2018 and December 2019, yours received some of the most downloads in the 12 months following online publication. Your research generated immediate impact and helped to raise the visibility of Food and Energy Security.”

Tripathi added that the popularity of the paper demonstrated the urgency to increase the productivity of important staple crops to feed the rapidly growing population amid the challenges posed by climate change.

“CRISPR/Cas9-based genome editing has been recently established for banana, paving the way for the development of improved varieties resistant to diseases and pests, particularly when no host plant resistance is available among banana germplasm,” she said.

The IITA team has spearheaded the use of genome editing for developing banana varieties that are resistant to various deadly diseases. These included recently, the first-ever use of CRISPR, a technology for genome editing, to develop plantain plants with high resistance to the banana streak virus.

The work was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB).

The research team, L-R: Valentine Otang Ntui, Leena Tripathi, and Jaindra Nath Tripathi

bananaCGIAR-IITAgenome-editing toolsIITA News no. 2542

Communications • 24th June 2020

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