Building disease-beating wheat

December 12, 2007
Flowering Wheat Head
The project has the potential to considerably speed up the process of wheat breeding. Credit: Photo by: Carl Davies, CSIRO

Pioneered by CSIRO researchers, in collaboration with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and Sydney University, the research illustrates the major genetic improvements possible without genetic modification (GM) technology.

“Wheat breeders often use wild relatives of wheat as sources of novel genes in breeding new disease-resistant wheats,” research team leader Dr Phil Larkin says.

“Unfortunately genes from wild relatives usually come in large blocks of hundreds of genes, and often include undesirable genes. Furthermore, these blocks of genes tend to stay together, even after many generations of breeding.

“The problem can be so difficult to overcome that plant breeders sometimes give up on very valuable genes because they cannot separate them from the problematic genes.”

A paper published this month in the respected international journal Theoretical and Applied Genetics details how the team ‘recombined’ two wild blocks of genes from two different Thinopyrum grass species – a wild relative of wheat – bringing together resistance genes for leaf rust and Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus (BYDV), two of the world’s most damaging wheat diseases. The recombined gene ‘package’ may also carry a resistance gene against a new stem rust strain which is causing concern worldwide.

“The exciting part of the new research is that we have been able to retain the useful genes but leave behind the associated undesirable genes - most notably in this case those for yellow flour colour, an important quality characteristic in wheat,” Dr Larkin says.

By developing new ‘DNA markers’ and by careful testing the team has produced a number of the disease resistance ‘packages’ for wheat breeders, making it faster and easier to include these important disease resistance traits in future wheat varieties.

Source: CSIRO Australia

Explore further: GM—'the most critical technology' for feeding the world, expert says

Related Stories

Gene to reduce wheat yield losses

February 19, 2009

A new gene that provides resistance to a fungal disease responsible for millions of hectares of lost wheat yield has been discovered by scientists from the US and Israel.

Recommended for you

An engineered surface unsticks sticky water droplets

August 31, 2015

The leaves of the lotus flower, and other natural surfaces that repel water and dirt, have been the model for many types of engineered liquid-repelling surfaces. As slippery as these surfaces are, however, tiny water droplets ...

New material science research may advance tech tools

August 31, 2015

Hard, complex materials with many components are used to fabricate some of today's most advanced technology tools. However, little is still known about how the properties of these materials change under specific temperatures, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.