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Gene discovery may halt a deep-rooted pepper disease

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For more than a century, the global hot pepper industry has been dealing with a problem. A funguslike pathogen, known as Phytophthora capsici, has spread a root rot disease that severely diminishes crop yields. Despite highly adaptive management practices and the availability of wild pepper varieties that have evolved resistance, the pathogen continues to thrive.

Now, scientists from the University of California, Davis, have identified a promising candidate gene that encodes resistance to P. capsici in peppers. The work is published this month in the journal The Plant Genome, available on line at http://bit.ly/1ocomlF.

Under the direction of plant scientist Allen Van Deynze, the director of research at UC Davis’ Seed Biotechnology Center, doctoral candidate Zeb Rehrig had begun the project by screening 31,000 genes in a population of pathogen-resistant chili peppers and jalapeños — a number far surpassing the standard 1,000 genes screened in this type of test. This allowed the researchers to build a high-density genetic map of 3,600 genes.

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