Biotech Updates

CSIRO "Gene Sandwich" to Boost Wheat Resistance to Rust

January 6, 2021

Side-by-side comparison of the rust protection in action, right, and unprotected wheat. Photo Source: University of Minnesota

Researchers at Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) have led an international effort to develop wheat plants with a stronger and potentially more durable level of resistance against rust diseases by "stacking" five resistance genes together.

"Our approach is like putting five locks on a door – you're making it very difficult to get in," said lead CSIRO researcher Dr. Mick Ayliffe. He added that this novel approach of building multiple layers of protection will make it much harder for rust pathogens to successfully attack wheat.

Dr. Ayliffe said their study targeted stem rust, but the same technology can be used to breed against stripe and leaf rust diseases as well, and in different existing wheat varieties to add resistance. "One of the genes we selected actually protects against stem, leaf and stripe rust diseases, so it's entirely possible to include genes that also work against other rust species," he said. Adoption of this new in-built resistance technology would also be a valuable tool for integrated pest management, reducing the need for fungicides and increasing the durability of the management tools for farmers.

For more details, read the article in CSIRO News.

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