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MSU student recognized for wheat disease efforts

Posted at 8:13 PM, Jun 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-08 22:13:53-04

BOZEMAN – A Montana State University student is being celebrated for his research on crop-destroying fungal diseases.

MSU graduate student Bernard Nyamesorto won an award of excellence at the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative workshop back in April.

Nyamesorto won this award because of his reliance on working towards genetically modifying wheat to make it less susceptible to fungal disease.

“My study is in trying to combat disease in wheat by overcoming the enemies in wheat’s genome itself,” said Nyamesorto.

The fungal disease he focuses on the most is called rust. There are three different types of rust disease: stripe, leaf, and stem. Stripe is the most common rust disease Montana farmers face.

Nyamesorto said the genes found in wheat are comparable to an army camp.

“You have people in your camp that knowingly or unknowingly help your enemies to defeat you. So, in this case, the rust disease is an enemy to the wheat plant and then we think there are some enemies in wheat, some genes, that help the disease to do well in a plant,” said Nyamesorto.

Right now, he is working in MSU’s labs to find the correct modification of the plant’s genetic structure to make the plant not susceptible to the disease at all.

“It is important because one major cause of yield loss of plants including wheat is diseases, and farmers struggle to battle this and use various means. But the use of chemicals, sometimes you can have the problem of the disease growing resistance to these chemicals and the problem comes back,” said Nyamesorto.

Through continued research at MSU’s Lab and out in an actual wheat field, Nyamesorto hopes to one day develop a genetically modified version of wheat that can withstand rust disease altogether.