A hardier version of the common white mushroom may soon be appearing on grocery shelves, thanks to new genetic technology developed by U of T researchers.
Professors Paul Horgen and James Anderson of botany at U of T at Mississauga have discovered a method to genetically improve the white button mushroom, one of the world's largest vegetable crops. "Over time the white button mushroom strain, which is grown worldwide, has become more fragile," says Horgen, a member of the department's Mushroom Research Group. "We've found ways to make it more genetically stable, less susceptible to disease and therefore more profitable for mushroom growers."
The annual retail value of the single strain of white button mushroom, or Agaricus bisporus, is nearly $7 billion US. This monoculture approach results in the mushrooms' instability, a problem that affects growers everywhere.
To solve the monoculture problem, Horgen and Anderson spent over a decade developing breeding techniques that break down natural barriers in the mushroom life-cycle and strengthen the strain by introducing genetic variability. In this process they dissolve the mushrooms' cell walls and use DNA profiling to identify the mating cells and follow a mating reaction. Horgen and Anderson have also published the first "genetic map" of mushrooms.
Horgen has just established AGARITEC BIOTECHNOLOGIES LTD. to launch the new technology and is currently negotiating financing for the company with some of the world's largest mushroom growers. The research has been funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the University Research Incentive Fund, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the global mushroom industry.
CONTACT: Professor Paul Horgen, botany department at U of T at Mississauga, (905) 828-5424, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or Megan Easton, U of T public affairs, (416) 978-0260, e-mail: email@example.com
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