Monday, March 12, 2012

Salt Resistant Wheat - A Big Step Forward by Australian Science

The news has been a few more years in development following the discovery of the actual gene in the 1990s, that can convey salt resistance in wheat.
The news was even on AM this morning, with the interview of people involved, following publication of the article in the journal Nature.
[link to AM story - ]

This has been a big step forward by the staff at the Waite Institute [ Uni of Adelaide] and Centre for Plant Functional Genomics in Adelaide with the incorporation of the gene from a wheat ancestor into durum wheat and the material moving into the pre production phase of a new commercial variety, with commercial availability likely to be 4-5 years from now.

While durum wheat is a smaller crop area than the more traditional bread wheats, it is also an important one, as prices can be quite a bit higher. Durum wheats conventionally are used for pasta and related products.

Salt tolerance is a very important trait, as both in Australia and elsewhere the areas suitable for cropping, but damaged by salt ingress are increasing, as well as the possibility of being able to use less than ideal water for irrigation, a major issue in many areas of the world.

The interview is a bit superficial I thought, as the real issues are of world wide relevance for wheat production. No doubt work is already under way to extend this to bread wheats. A better overview is here on a science report -

The other part of the work is that now the gene hs been identified, it may be feasible to also incorporate it into other major crops - with other grains an obvious first target - think rice, maize, as major ones initially. It also comes soon one of the same groups has been associated with improving iron levels in cereals, a similar outstanding achievement.

Farrer, the grand father of wheat breeding in the Australian context, would be pleased with the wheat breeders of 2012.

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