2Blades Foundation Newsletter
Issue 2 | January 2017 
Happy New Year and welcome to the second edition of the 2Blades Newsletter.  

It was a busy end to 2016 for our team, because rust and other diseases never sleep.

End of 2016 recap: Damp conditions led to disease outbreaks around the world

In Australia, the wettest season in over 25 years led to numerous disease problems in cereals and pulses, including ascochyta blight of chickpea, wheat scab, and sclerotina in canola.  In North America, Canadian wheat production was struck by Fusarium , and rains in July and August led to increases in sudden death syndrome in soybean fields in Illinois.  In Africa, an outbreak of yellow rust spread quickly across Ethiopia affecting over 300,000 hectares of land, whilst in Bangladesh the wheat blast attack caused yield losses worth over $200m and resulted in the government suspending wheat cultivation in 8 districts.

The good news is that researchers continue to make strides in combating disease. Nature Genetics reported that researchers at Kansas State University have isolated and cloned a new resistance gene for Fusarium head blight . In the commercial sector,  2Blades partner J.R. Simplot Co. gained USDA approval for new varieties of their Innate potato with resistance to late blight. 

Here at 2Blades, we added support to Ethiopian scientists Dagnachew Bekele and Sultan Mohammed Yimer working at the Chickpea Innovation Lab at UC Davis, to help find resistance to Fusarium wilt. We also announced important new partnerships with two CGIAR centers, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

We're looking forward to making 2017 a strong year for raising awareness about the toll of crop diseases on global food security and advancing solutions through our programs. We could not do it without the support of our collaborators, funders, and enthusiasts of all kinds, to whom we say a hearty "Thank You!". If you want to be one too then get involved, v isit us online at www.2blades.org, or join the conversation on Twitter @2Blades.
Program Spotlight: Asian Soybean Rust

The 2Blades Group at The Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, UK is pursuing new sources of resistance to Asian Soybean Rust (ASR), a disease that threatens global soybean production.

The project is a partnership with Dr. Sergio Brommonschenkel (Universidade Federal de Vicosa, Brazil) and DuPont-Pioneer, and in 2016 the 2Blades Group reported the identification of a gene in pigeon pea, a soybean relative, that protects pigeon pea from ASR. When this gene was introduced into soybean, it conferred full resistance to ASR. This was the first demonstration of the successful transfer of a resistance gene from a related legume into soybean, opening up the potential for sourcing disease resistance genes from a range of other legume relatives. These advances were reported in the June edition of Nature Biotechnology.

Because soy produces more protein per acre of land that many other foods, it is an important crop in the developing world for combating malnutrition and stunting. African soy production has increased over 30-fold in the past 50 years, yet despite this growth, demand still outstrips production by 100% causing a heavy reliance on imports.

Soybean production in Africa is also constrained by ASR, where it is a year-round disease problem causing losses of 40-80%. At the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and in the National Soybean Breeding Program at Makerere University (Uganda), several high-yielding, disease tolerant lines have been developed for commercial production. However, African pathogen strains are evolving, and there is a need for greater and more durable resistance.

We're working with breeders, pathologists, and molecular biologists in East Africa to address ASR and develop durable resistance to the disease in high-yielding, farmer-preferred varieties. Such varieties can protect and boost yields, reducing Africa's dependence on soybean imports, reduce malnutrition, and protect against food production shocks.

Visit our YouTube channel to hear 2Blades' collaborator Harun Murithi a plant pathologist at the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania), talk about the importance of ASR in Africa and efforts to develop durable resistance to this disease.

2Blades News                                             
We recently added our support to the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Climate Resilient Chickpea to discover new sources of resistance to Fusarium wilt in chickpea relatives. The work will be carried out by two Ethiopian students who will spend time at UC Davis as part of their PhD studies. Read more...

We have begun a new partnership with the Mexico-based International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) to develop wheat lines with durable resistance against wheat rust.   With CIMMYT, we will use a biotech approach to introduce a 'stack' of multiple resistance genes into wheat to provide durable rust resistance. If effective, this 'stack' will be introduced into elite CIMMYT lines for distribution to appropriate countries around the world. Read more...

In December, we signed a license agreement with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) to provide IRRI scientists with access to 2Blades' TAL Code gene-editing technology for their use to boost iron and zinc content in rice. Read more...

Our new YouTube channel will tell stories about our mission, collaborators, and projects. In the first in a series of interviews with our partners, Dr. Jay Scott and Dr. Sam Hutton at the University of Florida talk about progress in developing progress in developing bacterial spot resistant tomatoes
External Affairs Director 
We recently welcomed Dr. Jack Westwood to 2Blades as External Affairs Director. This new position serves to enhance our outreach, communications, and fundraising. Jack joins us from the British Consulate in Chicago where he was Head of Science and Innovation. Jack holds a Ph.D. in Molecular Plant Pathology from the University of Cambridge. He can be contacted at jhw@2blades.org.