Crop diseases are a significant threat to agriculture, causing losses estimated at 20% per year worldwide. Until recently, the agricultural industry relied mainly on plant breeding to provide resistant varieties and on chemicals to protect susceptible plants. Breeding is time-consuming and the resistance provided may not be durable, whereas chemicals can harm the environment.
Pathogen-specific recombinant antibodies expressed ectopically in plant cells offer an alternative approach to reduce the impact of pathogens and develop resistant crop varieties. Fraunhofer IME has already demonstrated the effectiveness of antibody-based resistance against several plant viruses. Recently, the institute presented proof of concept that antibodies fused to antifungal peptides provide an effective and environmentally friendly strategy for the development of crops resistant to fungal pathogens.
In earlier projects, we also generated crops with enhanced and stable resistance against mycotoxin-producing fungi from the genera Aspergillus and Fusarium.