Research paves way for greater yellow spot resistance

Countryman

There have been several breakthroughs in pre-breeding wheat research, led by the Department of Agriculture and Food, which will aid the development of more robust varieties with greater resistance to the leaf disease yellow spot.

Yellow spot is a fungal disease that has intensified in WA under wheat-on-wheat situations, particularly where stubble retention is practised. Improved resistance to the disease is a key target in Australia wheat breeding programs.

The national research project, co-funded with the Grains Research and Development Corporation, has identified new genes and methods to help deliver new varieties with improved tolerance to the disease, more quickly.

Department senior research officer Manisha Shankar said the research had identified several genes related to yellow spot resistance in Australian germplasm, where there was previously just one.

"We have identified new genes that are contributing resistance in wheat to the yellow spot pathogen," Dr Shankar said. "The research team has already been able to combine three of these genes from different sources into fixed lines by intercrossing and single seed descent.

"This year we plan to combine five genes. Multiple genes will make new varieties more robust and resistant to potential changes in the pathogen."

The research has also enhanced spore production techniques so researchers can produce and store large amounts of yellow spot inoculum.

"This means that we can now test more genetic material, both in the field and in the glasshouse," Dr Shankar said.

The team has also developed a new controlled environment screening technique that reduces the need for field trials.

"This new assay is rapid and more efficient compared with the field-based test and is valuable to both breeders and pathologists," Dr Shankar said.

The outcomes of the research are now being extended to plant breeding companies.

The 'Germplasm enhancement for yellow spot resistance in wheat' project also includes collaborators from University of Adelaide, Department of Primary Industries, Victoria, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Queensland and Curtin University.

Dr Shankar will be presenting the research to the International Wheat Genetics Symposium in Yokohama, Japan, in September. She also gave a presentation to the recent Wheat Breeding Assembly in Brisbane.

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