Ronald discusses one of the greatest challenges of our time: how to feed the growing population in the presence of disease and environmental stresses that threaten the world’s crops. Currently, twenty-five percent of the world’s rice is grown in flood-prone areas. Ronald and her colleagues characterized a gene, Sub1A, that confers tolerance to two weeks of flooding. They demonstrate that transferring Sub1A to a highly intolerant rice species is sufficient for the crop to tolerate submergence in water. Ronald shifts gears to discuss another gene, Xa21, that she and her colleagues discovered that controls the rice immune response. Ronald hypothesizes that Xa21 is activated by a sulfated peptides derived from the infecting bacteria.
Pamela Ronald is Professor of Plant Pathology at the University of California, Davis, where she studies the role that genes play in a plant’s response to its environment. Her laboratory has genetically engineered rice for resistance to diseases and flooding, both of which are serious problems of rice crops in Asia and Africa. She also… Continue Reading