Bar-Ilan Univ. develops hybrid basil cultivar resistant to epidemic disease

The new species, with the potential to improve the agricultural world, was donned "Prospera" by the university, the name being a hybrid of the disease Pernospora and prosperity.

May 12, 2019 23:33
2 minute read.

New species of basil resistant to Downy Mildew. (photo credit: BAR ILAN UNIVERSITY AND GENESIS SEEDS LTD.)


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A hybrid of basil highly resistant to Downy Mildew has been developed by researchers at Bar-Ilan University, headed by Israeli Prize-winning scientist Professor Yigal Cohen and Dr. Yariv Ben-Na'im. The new species of basil, containing no pesticides, has the opportunity to diminish concerns of farmers worldwide.

Downy Mildew stems from a fungus-like pathogen, called Pernospora belbahrii, that causes severe damage to sweet basil crops across the globe. It was first discovered in Switzerland 16 years ago and spread from there to all corners of the Earth, eventually landing in Israel in 2011.

"Israel is one of the major winter exporters of fresh herbs to Europe, Russia and the eastern United States. The Israeli fresh herb market is estimated to export nearly 70 million Euros per year, 50% of which is based on sweet basil.  Most of the basil in Israel is grown in the country’s hottest regions - the Arava, Jordan Valley, Beit Shean Valley and the Negev." Bar-Ilan University said in a recent statement.

To combat this threat farmers turned to using pesticides to prevent Downy Mildew from spreading throughout their crops, although this particular disease showed to be unaffected by many of the pesticides available for farmers to use. However, with the new hybrid discovery farmers will be able to eradicate the pathogen from affecting their basil crops, diminishing the epidemic facing Israeli basil farmers today.

The research was performed in conjunction with Genesis Seeds, a research company based in Israel specializing in the production of seeds for various vegetables, herbs and flowers.

"New funding by 'Genesis' facilitated concentrated efforts towards a new protocol to obtain interspecific hybrids. Bar-Ilan researchers, together with Dr. Isaac Nir and Dr. Arnon Brand from 'Genesis', succeeded in producing a few hybrid plants that are both DM resistant and fertile."

The new species with the potential to improve the agricultural world was donned "Prospera" by the university, the name being a hybrid of the disease Pernospora and prosperity.

There are an estimated 391,000 species of Plantae worldwide. Although basil represents a fraction of that number the discovery, the research and the methods have the potential assist phytopathologists across the globe in their research of combating other diseases affecting the agricultural world.

"BIRAD Research & Development Company Ltd. is proud to utilize the extensive knowledge and experience of Prof. Cohen, a world-renowned expert on phytopathology at Bar-Ilan University and recipient of the Israel Prize for Agricultural Research, in order to improve agriculture in Israel and around the world." the statement concluded.

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