Engineered Cotton Uses Weed-Killing Herbicide As Nutrient

A newly developed fertilizer system will provide nutrition to engineered cotton crops worldwide and a deadly dose to weeds that are increasingly herbicide resistant, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Research study.

“Our researchers here at Texas A&M AgriLife have addressed an issue that costs producers billions of dollars,” said Dr. Patrick Stover, vice chancellor of agriculture and life sciences at Texas A&M in College Station and AgriLife Research acting director. “This is an economical, envrionmentally safe and sustainable solution.The new system applies phosphite to cotton crops engineered to express a certain gene — a gene that makes cotton able to process the phosphite into nutrition while the same compound suppresses weeds that are unable to use it, researchers said.

Stover said this is an exciting and timely discovery in the movement to get ahead of the ongoing problem of weeds evolving faster than the chemicals and other methods developed to control them.

“We believe the ptxD/phosphite system we have developed is one of the most promising technologies of recent times that can help solve many of the biotechnological, agricultural and environmental problems we encounter,” said Dr. Keerti Rathore, an AgriLife Research plant biotechnologist in College Station.

“Selective fertilization with phosphite allows unhindered growth of cotton plants expressing the ptxD gene while suppressing weeds” is the title of a Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America journal article to be released the week of June 4. The article will be found at: https://tinyurl.com/ptxDcottonphosphite.

Phosphorus is a major element required by all living beings – life is not possible without it. Most organisms can only utilize phosphorus in the form of orthophosphate.

Read more at Department of Soil and Crop Sciences

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