Tage Thorstensen

Research Scientist

(+47) 402 00 909

Ås H7

Visiting address
Høgskoleveien 7, 1433 Ås


Plants are exposed to various pathogens in their environment and have developed immune systems with multiple layers of defence to fight-back. However, often pathogens overcome the resistance barriers, infect the plants to cause the disease. Pathogens that cause diseases on economically important crop plants like strawberry incur huge losses to the agriculture industry. For example, The 2016 outbreak of strawberry grey mould (Botrytis cinerea) in Norway caused up to 95% crop losses. Outbreaks like this underline the importance of developing novel and sustainable tools to combat plant diseases, for example by increasing the plants’ natural disease resistance. Priming plant defences using chemical elicitors may be effective in providing the enhanced resistance against multiple pathogens. We have used β-aminobutyric acid (BABA) as a chemical priming agent to induce resistance in Fragaria vesca against Botrytis cinerea. Effects of BABA on disease progression and defence responses of Fragaria are being characterized using molecular tools like RNAseq, RT-PCR and ChIP. As priming chemicals may induce an epigenetic memory in treated plants, we also plan to study the histone methylation patterns in primed plants and the genes that are regulated. Our long-term aim is to understand the duration of the epigenetic memory and its cross-generational transmission to the progeny in Fragaria. Our results will help guide various crop protection strategies in addition to providing new insights to develop novel tools for plant disease management.

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Plant research and breeding has a long and successful history in the Scandinavian countries, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Researchers in the region have been early in adopting plant gene technologies as they developed. This review gives a background, as well as discuss the current and future progress of plant gene technology in these four countries. Country-specific details of the regulation of genetically modified plants are described, as well as similarities and differences in the approach to regulation of novel genome-editing techniques. Also, the development of a sustainable bioeconomy may encompass the application of plant gene technology and we discuss whether or not this is reflected in current associated national strategies. In addition, country-specific information about the opinion of the public and other stakeholders on plant gene technology is presented, together with a country-wise political comparison and a discussion of the potential reciprocal influence between public opinion and the political process of policy development. The Scandinavian region is unique in several aspects, such as climate and certain agriculturally related regulations, and at the same time the region is vulnerable to changes in plant breeding investments due to the relatively small market sizes. It is therefore important to discuss the role and regulation of innovative solutions in Scandinavian plant research and breeding.