Research improves cold-hardy wheat

Dec 06, 2011 By Victoria Martinez
SCOTT BELL/U of S University of Saskatchewan PHD student Parul Jain takes wheat to the lab to investigate the genes associated with cold resistance.

(PhysOrg.com) -- With global demand for wheat exceeding 20 billion bushels a year, producers need more high-yielding crops that can survive in the extreme climate of the Canadian Prairies.

Winter wheat, which is planted in the fall and harvested in July and August, could help meet this need. It has a 30 per cent higher yield than spring-seeded varieties. It is less susceptible to late spring diseases and it provides ground cover that reduces .

But harsh Canadian winters take a toll on winter . Improved cold resistance could change this and provide an attractive option for local , as well as potentially put more food on the world’s tables.

Plant sciences PHD student Parul Jain is part of a University of Saskatchewan team that is studying gene groups in winter wheat to help improve the crop’s cold resistance.

“The results we’ve had so far are exciting,” said Jain, who has already identified seven gene switches linked to cold resistance for her doctoral research. Each gene switch may turn on a different set of genes, causing different reactions to cold.

U of S plant breeding experts will use these switches to produce new nutritious and hardy grain lines. The resulting cold-hardy lines would not be considered genetically modified products, since the genes occur naturally in wheat.

“People are looking at cold hardiness in every kind of plant all over the world,” said U of S research scientist and genomics expert Monica Baga, who supervises Jain’s work along with Ravindra Chibbar, Canada Research Chair in molecular biology for crop quality.

Extreme cold creates a double threat to crops. Some types of winter wheat resist overnight frosts well, but can’t stand up to longterm cold, and vice versa. Breeders need to protect crops from both types of cold, which are associated with different genes.

Jain is identifying gene switches that turn various individual genes on and off. She is looking at 15 variants of one gene switch and has already found several versions of the switch that set off cold-protecting genes.

Using these switches, scientists in the research group will identify important genetic markers for selecting the best cold-protecting properties for wheat.

Jain’s pure scientific results can be put to use directly at the U of S because the campus has a dedicated breeder for winter wheat who has all the genetic stocks.

By identifying genes, the research group helps breeders speed up the production of new wheat lines.

“Traditional breeding times vary anywhere between seven and 10 years depending on the trait and luck of the breeder,” Chibbar said. “In the case of identified genes, which is our case, development can be reduced by between one and two years.”

The cold resistance research is part of U of S efforts to meet global challenges in food security, which is a signature area of the university’s research.

Since 60 per cent of the world wheat market is from other countries, there is already a huge market for this type of grain.

Victoria Martinez is a student intern with the U of S research communications office.

This article first ran as part of the 2011 Young Innovators series, an initiative of the U of S Research Communications office in partnership with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

Explore further: Bitter food but good medicine from cucumber genetics

Provided by University of Saskatchewan

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Newly Cloned Gene Key to More Adaptable Wheat Varieties

Dec 05, 2006

In a research discovery that has practical implications for improving wheat varieties, a team of scientists at the University of California, Davis, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have cloned a gene that controls the ...

Breeding procedure speeds up winter wheat variety development

Aug 02, 2011

Agricultural producers and waterfowl will benefit from a project at South Dakota State University that uses an innovative plant-breeding technique to shave perhaps two years off the time needed to produce winter wheat varieties ...

Improving wheat yields for global food security

Jul 25, 2011

With the world’s population set to reach 8.9 billion by 2050, CSIRO scientists are hunting down and exploiting a number of wheat’s key genetic traits in a bid to substantially boost its grain yield.

Researchers Discover Genes for Frost Tolerance in Wheat

Apr 29, 2008

The genes responsible for the wide range of freezing temperatures that can be tolerated by different wheat varieties have been identified by a team of U.S. and European scientists, led by a plant scientist ...

Flowering and freezing tolerance linked in wheat, study shows

Jun 30, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- New research by UC Davis wheat geneticist Jorge Dubcovsky and his colleagues could lead to new strategies for improving freezing tolerance in wheat, which provides more than one-fifth of the calories consumed ...

Building disease-beating wheat

Dec 12, 2007

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 ...

Recommended for you

Parasitic worm genomes: largest-ever dataset released

15 hours ago

The largest collection of helminth genomic data ever assembled has been published in the new, open-access WormBase-ParaSite. Developed jointly by EMBL-EBI and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, this new ...

Bitter food but good medicine from cucumber genetics

Nov 27, 2014

High-tech genomics and traditional Chinese medicine come together as researchers identify the genes responsible for the intense bitter taste of wild cucumbers. Taming this bitterness made cucumber, pumpkin ...

New button mushroom varieties need better protection

Nov 27, 2014

A working group has recently been formed to work on a better protection of button mushroom varieties. It's activities are firstly directed to generate consensus among the spawn/breeding companies to consider ...

Cataloguing 10 million human gut microbial genes

Nov 25, 2014

Over the past several years, research on bacteria in the digestive tract (gut microbiome) has confirmed the major role they play in our health. An international consortium, in which INRA participates, has developed the most ...

User comments : 0

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.