Plant & Food Research has received a Fast-Start Marsden grant for a new research project that will investigate the plant pathogen Psa (Pseudomonas syringae pv actinidiae) to understand how it evolves during infection of the kiwifruit plant.

Led by Dr Jay Jayaraman at Plant & Food Research, the project will use next generation DNA sequencing to investigate the mechanisms behind the evolution of the Psa pathogen and deliver insights into the influence of host selection and how pathogens evolve during pandemics.

Psa caused severe damage in New Zealand’s kiwifruit crops after its discovery in 2010. While the industry recovered, thanks to a new cultivar with improved disease tolerance, exploring alternative ways to manage the disease in the future is still essential, particularly given the possibility that Psa could adapt to the new cultivar.

“A deep understanding of the interaction between the kiwifruit plant and the pathogen Psa could enable future targeted natural breeding to produce a Psa resistant commercial cultivar, eliminating the need for chemical controls,” says Dr Jayaraman.

The study will look at Psa on a range of kiwifruit cultivars ranging from susceptible to resistant.