Biotech Updates

Scientists Identify Wheat Genes for Boron Tolerance

July 9, 2014

Scientists from the University of Adelaide in Australia have identified the genes in wheat that control tolerance to boron toxicity, a significant yield-limiting soil condition around the globe. Project leader Dr. Tim Sutton said "About 35% of the world's seven billion people depend on wheat for survival. However, productivity is limited by many factors such as drought, salinity and subsoil constraints, including boron toxicity." The researchers say that in soils where boron toxicity reduces yields, genetic improvement of crops is the only effective strategy to address the problem.

The scientists tracked specific boron tolerance genes from wild wheat plants grown by the world's earliest farmers in the Mediterranean region, through wheat lines brought into Australia more than a century ago, to current day Australian commercial varieties. They found a distinct pattern of gene variant distribution that was correlated to the levels of boron in soils from different geographical regions.

"This discovery means that wheat breeders will now have precision selection tools and the knowledge to select for the right variants of the tolerance gene needed to do the job in specific environments," says Dr. Sutton.

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