FFAR investment in downy mildew research benefits lettuce producers and consumers
WASHINGTON — The Foundation of Food and Agriculture Research awarded Richard Michelmore, professor and director of the UC Davis Genome Center, the first research grant through the Crops of the Future Collaborative. This award builds on and extends genomics resources to improve the $3 billion dollar lettuce crop. It will allow researchers to exploit genomics approaches to combat downy mildew, which is the most important pathogen infecting lettuce. This highly variable pathogen causes losses during both production in the field and post-harvest. The project will enable rational deployment of new resistance genes resulting in more durable disease resistance and less use of control chemicals. FFAR’s grant will benefit both conventional and organic farmers by reducing crop losses and improving profitability. This research also will help reduce food waste and produce food for consumers with fewer chemical inputs.
“Downy mildew threatens production wherever the lettuce crop is grown, requiring expensive chemical control measures and resulting in loss of quality for consumers,” Michelmore said. “FFAR’s investment will increase our knowledge of plant resistance and pathogen variability leading to more efficient, knowledge-driven breeding of lettuce cultivars with more durable resistance to downy mildew.”
“The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research is pleased to support Michelmore’s research to reduce food waste and loss all along the value chain from producers to consumers,” said Sally Rockey, Ph.D., executive director of FFAR. “Further, this award is an example of how public-private partnerships effectively leverage funding for research that will provide benefit to farmers, producers, and consumers. This consortium approach provides smaller companies an exceptional opportunity to combine their R&D resources with larger multi-nationals to address shared pre-competitive issues important to the lettuce industry.”
Michelmore received a FFAR grant of $2.5 million over five years for this research. Matching funds from the Crops of the Future Leafy Greens Participants will double FFAR’s investment for an award totaling $5 million. These matching funds are provided by a multi-national consortium of 14 large and small breeding and biotechnology companies in order to address significant problems in lettuce production.
Crops of the Future Participants on the Leafy Greens Project are: BASF Vegetable Seeds, Bejo Zaden B.V., Benson Hill Biosystems, Inc., Enza Zaden Research and Development, B.V., Gautier Semences, Keygene, N.V., Progeny Advanced Genetics Inc., Ramiro Arnedo S.A., Rijk Zwaan Zaadteelt en Zaadhandel B.V., Sakata Seed Corporation, Syngenta Crop Protection AG, Takii and Company Ltd., Tanimura & Antle Value Added LLC. and Vilmorin S.A.