Biotech Updates

New Technique to Help Plant Breeders Develop Drought Resistant Varieties Faster

December 13, 2017

Scientists from the Canadian Light Source (CLS) have teamed up with researchers from the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) to develop a new technique to examine drought tolerance in wheat. Led by Chithra Karunakaran and Karen Tanino, the team developed a simple non-destructive method to screen hundreds of wheat leaf samples in a day, reducing the time and cost associated with traditional breeding programs to select varieties for drought tolerance.

Using the wax of a flag leaf as their test subject, the research team examined the morphological characteristics of the plant, as well as the chemical signatures, comparing the drought-resistant Stettler wheat variety to the Superb, which is more vulnerable to drought conditions.

With the help of the bright light produced at the CLS, Karunakaran and her team were the first to link micro and macronutrients in the leaves for their ability to tolerate drought, finding higher levels of zinc in the drought-resistant Stettler. These results have significant implications for future breeding programs, and also raise questions about the role of zinc in fertilizer.

For more details, read the CLS News.