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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Genetic Exchange and Gene Flow Risks from Plants in Agriculture

Location: Vegetable Crops Research Unit

Project Number: 3655-21000-054-00
Project Type: Appropriated

Start Date: Oct 01, 2010
End Date: Dec 31, 2013

Objective:
Objective 1: Using an insect-pollinated crop system, elucidate principles and data requirements for better predictions of gene flow via pollen in insect-pollinated crops. Objective 2: Using squash with transgenic resistance to viral pathogens as a model system, develop a methodology to assess the impact of this transgene recently introduced into the genome of a wild species.

Approach:
The number, types and acreages planted to transgenic crops are increasing. Consequently, there is a need to predict the likelihood of gene escape for different crops and a need to develop methodology to determine the impact of a transgene as it introgresses into wild populations. Because many crops benefit from insect pollination, part of our research investigates how distinct insect pollinators disperse pollen from plant to plant and ultimately among populations (gene flow). A better understanding of the impact of pollinator type on pollen dispersal would help us evaluate the differential risk of gene escape for distinct insect-pollinated crops while increasing our ability to select alternative pollinators for specific crops in the event of a major honeybee decline. On the one hand we study the impact of pollinator group on pollen dispersal and gene flow using the blue columbine as a model system. Information developed using this system will later be applied to different crops. On the other hand we examine the consequences of a disease resistance transgene that confers resistance to three economically important squash viruses as it introgresses into wild populations. We determine both the direct effects of the transgene on the fitness of free-living Cucurbita pepo (wild squash) and the indirect effects on diabroticite beetles (the primary non-target herbivore) and bacterial wilt (the major disease that these beetles transmit). In addition we measure gene flow among wild squash populations and gather basic information on their pollination biology and mating system. These types of data are critical to the efficient evaluation by regulatory agencies of the potential risk of transgenes introduced into wild plant populations.

Last Modified: 4/23/2014
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