Seeding Food Innovation - Awarded Project 2019

Effector-Enabled Mining of Wild Plants for Novel Crop Immunodiversity

Project Description

Pathogens are constantly challenging our agricultural system. Farmers know that crop pathogens will destroy a significant proportion of their product before it makes it to consumers. These loses increase costs to producers and consumers, exacerbating socioeconomic pressures, and lead to significant food security challenges. To make matters worse, these stresses are expected to dramatically increase due to global climate change and human population growth.

Breeding for resistance is the most effective way to control crop pathogens. This approach has ensured food security for billions of people, but is not without its problems. Most importantly, many crops do not have enough new resistance genes to keep up with evolving pathogens. One very powerful approach that has been used to overcome this problem is to introduce new resistance genes from crop wild-relatives.

We have developed a novel approach to find new tomato resistance genes. Like other groups, we look for new genes in crop wild-relatives, but uniquely, we approach the problem by first harnessing the natural diversity of pathogens by identifying all the pathogen genes responsible for triggering resistance. We then use these pathogen genes to probe wild tomato relatives and identify those genes that elicit an immune response in the plant. The resistance genes will be identified and made available for the tomato breeders to incorporate into their breeding programs.

Food Innovation

Relevance to the Field of Food Innovation: Pathogen are constantly evolving and will never stop being a threat to agriculture. In fact, their impact will only increase as we face the imminent consequences of climate change. The most viable option for limiting wide-spread pathogen losses is to increase the pool of genetic resources available to breeding programs. But, where will this new diversity come from? Crop wild-relatives provide the most feasible solution. Our approach provides a novel and rapid way to identify genes that provide resistance to important agricultural pathogens in these wild species. The discovery and utilization of new resistance genes is absolutely critical if our agricultural systems are to meet the demands of the future.


Anticipated Outcome: This study will identify new resistance genes for tomato breeding and lay the groundwork for future work focused on fungal pathogens. Ultimately, it will greatly expand our ability to find the genetic resources needed to protect our crops from the ever-present threat of pathogens.


Prof. David Guttman

Dr. David Guttman is a Professor and Associate Chair for Research in the University of Toronto Department of Cell & Systems Biology, and founder and Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Genome Evolution & Function. Dr. Guttman obtained his Ph.D. in microbial evolution from Stony Brook University 1995, » More Info

Prof. Darrell Desveaux

Dr. Darrell Desveaux is Professor and Associate Chair of Graduate Studies in the Department of Cell and Systems Biology at the University of Toronto, and Canada. He obtained his Ph.D. research in Biochemistry at the University of Montreal, then held a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill » More Info

Dr. Gopal Subramaniam (Agriculture & Agrifood Canada)

Dr. Subramaniam has more than 25 years experience in the field of plant-pathogen Interactions. He obtained his doctoral degree from the University of Montreal in 2000 and held a NSERC post-doctoral fellowship at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) till 2004. For the last 16 years, as a research scientist » More Info