Scientists in Africa Use Gene Editing to Protect Crops from Local Threats

Feb 02, 2024

In a race against a devastating parasite, African researchers are pioneering using CRISPR to improve local crops. Led by scientists like Steven Runo of Kenya, these efforts tackle challenges like witchweed infestations in sorghum and lethal diseases in maize, with promising results.

Sorghum, a staple food and versatile crop, suffers greatly from Striga, a parasitic weed siphoning off nutrients and crippling yields. Runo's team, though not the first to field-test gene-edited crops in Africa, is working on sorghum resistant to this threat. Their CRISPR-edited variety mimics natural mutations in resilient wild strains, offering hope for future field trials.

The innovation doesn't stop there. Kevin Pixley's team works on various fronts, from tackling maize diseases to making pearl millet flour last longer and boosting groundnut resistance to a cancer-causing fungus. Even livestock benefits, with projects like Dan Carlson's heat- and disease-tolerant cattle edits.

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