Biotech Updates

Ancient Genes for Salt-Tolerance in Wheat

February 9, 2007

Scientists at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) are studying two ancient genes that can provide salt-tolerance to wheat. The two genes – known as Nax1 and Nax2 work by excluding salt from different parts of the plant: one from the roots, the other from the leaves. The discovery of the two genes is the subject of international patents.

“The two genes originally came from a wheat ancestor, Triticum monococcum,” says CSIRO Plant Industry’s Dr Rana Munns. “They were unwittingly crossed into a durum wheat line about 35 years ago and are normally not present in any modern wheat.” The team used their knowledge of the two genes to construct molecular markers, which are now in use in CSIRO’s wheat breeding program. A durum wheat variety as salt-tolerant as bread wheat is in advanced field trials and could be commercially available in three years.

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