2Blades Foundation Newsletter
Issue 1 | September 2016 
Discover, Advance, Deliver 

Food security is a critical global concern. More than 800 million people today are chronically hungry, and the world is on track to add 2.3 billion more people by 2050. This is not a remote future but within the lifetime of many alive today, my children and so many others included.

Plant diseases undermine food security by causing crop losses, and they are occurring at an increasing rate as food production intensity scales up to meet the growing demand. Farmers constantly battle crop diseases with all means possible, but control measures may not be effective or available.

In just the past month, reports have come in that the Florida orange crop will be at its lowest in 53 years, with a > 60% crop loss from citrus greening (1); that a new disease of maize has been found in the US for the first time in nine US states (2); that head smut is causing further maize losses in Kenya on top of the alarming damage caused by maize lethal necrosis disease (3, 4); and that late blight, the disease responsible for the Irish Potato Famine, continues to cause outbreaks in the UK, Europe, US, and Africa (5, 6, 7 and see below). Further examples of major outbreaks can be found here. Crop diseases are especially devastating for farmers in tropical and sub-topical countries where smallholder farms dominate agriculture and affordable and effective control measures are most scarce.  

The good news is that modern plant science has made enormous advances in understanding how disease-causing microbes bypass or suppress plant defenses, leading to new ways to extend or reinforce a plant's natural immunity and produce crops with long-lasting resistance.

This is the mission of 2Blades: to contribute to world-wide food security by discovering, advancing, and delivering solutions for crop disease. We support the foremost scientists working on important insights in disease resistance and translate these into practical applications. We partner with the most effective foundations, companies, and international agricultural development organizations to deliver these innovations into the hands of growers as sustainable, environmentally-friendly genetic solutions.  

With our new newsletter, we hope to attract attention and support for the substantial and under-recognized impacts of crop disease by sharing updates on crop diseases around the world, insights from conferences, features on programs to deliver solutions to crop resistance, and stories of the people working hard to achieve these efforts.  
We invite you to learn more about crop disease and 2Blades' programs by visiting www.2blades.org , and following us on Twitter @2Blades .  

Diana Horvath
Tackling late blight of potato in Africa
2Blades is delighted to add its support to Dr. Marc Ghislain at the International Potato Center in Kenya and Dr. Andrew Kiggundu at the National Agricultural Research Organization in Uganda and their efforts to fight late blight disease in potato in East Africa.

Dr. Marc Ghislain, International Potato Center (CIP), Nairobi, Kenya
Dr. Andrew Kiggundu, National Agricultural Research Organization, Kawanda, Uganda
The CIP-NARO late blight project is an excellent example of creating robust, durable disease resistance by extending a plant's innate ability to fight disease with help from family members. Drs. Ghislain and Kiggundu introduced disease resistance genes from wild relatives of potato into local varieties of potato that are popular with farmers but susceptible to late blight disease, the notorious cause of the Irish potato famine.  The research has been very successful to date, producing strong disease protection in greenhouse and first field tests.  Dr. Kiggundu emphasized the importance of developing durable resistance as "one way we can stop the untold health and environmental risk to both farmers and consumers associated with the excessive use and misuse of pesticide chemicals that occurs in East Africa". 2Blades' support will ensure that Dr. Ghislain and Dr. Kiggundu can continue to carefully evaluate and measure the impacts of their important field work.

Late blight is still one of the top two most destructive potato diseases globally, affecting more than 3 million hectares of cultivated potato and causing economic losses estimated at $2.75 billion per year.    Read more....

The June issue of the journal  Nature Biotechnology  featured on its cover three studies that were initiated, funded managed and/or licensed by 2Blades. The studies detail the isolation of novel disease resistance genes and the successful transfer of resistance into wheat, soybean, and potato, three of the world’s most important crops.  

2Blades is enabling pepper breeders to develop varieties resistant to bacterial spot, one of the most economically important diseases of pepper, by broadly licensing marker sequences to the bacterial spot resistance gene, bs5, for introgression by conventional breeding. Recent licensees include the VoloAgri Group, Rijk Zwaan, and United Genetics.

Photo credit: Prof Brian Staskawicz, UC Berkeley

Other News                                             

2Blades staff members Diana Horvath and Jack Westwood visited East Africa to attend the  FARA General Assembly and 7th Africa Agriculture Science Week  in Kigali, Rwanda, and to see scientists in Kenya and Tanzania. Read more
2Blades is pleased to announce that Prof. Cyril Zipfel, Head of The Sainsbury Laboratory, will join its Scientific Advisory Board. Prof. Zipfel’s expertise is in innate immunity and the function of pattern recognition receptors in the response of plants to pathogens.
D r. Sarah Maria Schmidt has joined the 2Blades Group to seek defenses against Panama Disease of banana. Dr. Schmidt has been awarded a Marie Curie Fellowship support this work. Read more.