Genetic Approaches to Enhance Multiple Stress Tolerance in Maize

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Abstract or Summary

The multiple-stress effects on plant physiology and gene expression are being intensively studied lately, primarily in model plants such as Arabidopsis, where the effects of six stressors have simultaneously been documented. In maize, double and triple stress responses are obtaining more attention, such as simultaneous drought and heat or heavy metal exposure, or drought in combination with insect and fungal infestation. To keep up with these challenges, maize natural variation and genetic engineering are exploited. On one hand, quantitative trait loci (QTL) associated with multiple-stress tolerance are being identified by molecular breeding and genome-wide association studies (GWAS), which then could be utilized for future breeding programs of more resilient maize varieties. On the other hand, transgenic approaches in maize have already resulted in the creation of many commercial double or triple stress resistant varieties, predominantly weed-tolerant/insect-resistant and, additionally, also drought-resistant varieties. It is expected that first generation gene-editing techniques, as well as recently developed base and prime editing applications, in combination with the routine haploid induction in maize, will pave the way to pyramiding more stress tolerant alleles in elite lines/varieties on time.

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