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Crop Biotech Update

Wild Grass to Help in Wheat and Barley Improvement

September 18, 2014

New research published by plant scientists at the John Innes Centre in Norwich points to a breakthrough that could lead to new, high-yielding, disease-resistant crop varieties. Published in Molecular Plant and Microbe Interactions, the research suggests that the wild grass Brachypodium distachyon is an ideal model for studying disease resistance traits in wheat and barley.

According to Rachel Goddard, lead author of the paper, they have been investigating brassinosteroid (BR) signalling pathway in barley, a close relative of wheat. She added that similar to GA-defective plants, barley with a mutated BRI1 gene also seems to be a high yielding semi-dwarf that is more resistant to necrotrophic fungi. Goddard and her colleagues found that B. distachyon acts as a host to many of the same fungal pathogens that infect wheat and barley. They also showed that when genes in the BR-signalling pathway of B. distachyon are disrupted, the same disease resistance traits are observed. This suggests that the mechanisms associated with this pathway are conserved between barley and its grass relative.

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