Downy mildew in baby leaf kale, could be a thing of the past, thanks to a recent collaboration between industry and science.
The project saw the John Innes Centre and CN Seeds, a company specialising in the breeding, production and marketing of baby leaf salads and herbs, collaborate to develop a variety of baby leaf kale that is displaying increased resistance to the damaging disease, downy mildew.
CN Seeds contacted the John Innes Centre, for our help in combating this issue. Following initial discussions with Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation manager Dr Jonathan Clarke, CN Seeds were put in touch with Dr Chris Ridout.
Dr Ridout hosted CN Seeds plant breeder Sujit Tha in his laboratory and was able to share techniques for screening varieties of baby leaf kale to find the one most resistant to the downy mildew disease.
The collaborative project was able to screen a diverse range baby leaf kale from across the country and, using the screening techniques, was able to identify a few varieties most resistant.
These varieties can then be bred to create a variety of baby leaf kale that is resistant to the downy mildew disease. CN Seeds were then able to grow the new variety under protective netting, without the risk of downy mildew infection.
As a direct result of the project, CN Seeds have built a plant pathology lab at their headquarters to allow them to conduct their own screening.
The John Innes Centre is continuing collaborations, with a new PhD student position, whose work will further improve our understanding about mildew disease prevention, helping future crop growers to increase their yields without the need for pesticides.