Genes in wild grasses could help crops resist rust

October 22nd, 2008 - 12:29 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Oct 22 (IANS) Researchers have identified new sources of stem and leaf rust resistance in wild grass relatives of wheat, sourced mostly from the ‘fertile crescent’ of the Middle East. The discovery may lead to major increases in wheat production worldwide.Project supervisor Ian Dundas of the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine at the University of Adelaide said the project was part of a concerted global effort helping to underpin the sustainability of wheat cultivation.

“Australia is in an excellent position to combat the threat of cereal rust,” Dundas said. “This is one of many projects under the Australian Cereal Rust Control Programme developing new sources of rust resistance for growers.

“Nearly two decades ago, the Australian Cereal Rust Control Programme recognised the danger to the economic viability of Australian wheat growers from the emergence of new strains of rust and began investing heavily in this type of research.

“Finding alternative sources of resistance is vitally important. Diversity in resistance genes and variation in sources of resistance is one of our best defences when confronting any new rust pathotypes.”

The project has involved working with wheat breeding lines which contain chromosome fragments from uncultivated relatives of wheat, according to a Sciencealert release.

“These are mostly wild grasses from the region in the Middle East where modern bread and durum wheat species originated,” Dundas said.

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