Biotech Updates

Tel Aviv University Researchers Enable Rust Resistance in Wheat

October 5, 2022

Wheat has supplied about one-fifth of all calories and proteins consumed worldwide. However, the cultivation of wheat has reduced the diversity of its varieties, and consequently, modern varieties are more vulnerable to diseases, pests, and climate hazards. Climate change has since created an urgent need for wheat varieties that can thrive in extreme environmental and climatic conditions and withstand pests and diseases.

An international team that includes researchers from Tel Aviv University (TAU) has isolated three disease-resistance genes from wild grasses that enable resistance to rust diseases that cause severe damage to wheat yields worldwide. The three genes were isolated from plants preserved in the Liberman Okinow Gene Bank of Wild Cereals at the Institute for Cereal Crops Research (ICCR) at the George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences at TAU. Two of the genes, providing immunity against stem rust disease, were isolated by an international team led by researchers from the United Kingdom. The third gene, isolated by TAU researchers, provides resistance against two different diseases – leaf rust and stripe rust, currently exacerbated due to rising temperatures around the world.

In addition to disease resistance, Prof. Amir Sharon's team at ICCR is working with researchers worldwide to isolate genes for other beneficial traits. They are collaborating with researchers from Ben-Gurion University who recently isolated pest-resistance genes from wild wheat, and in TAU where a team has identified a new gene in wheat progenitors, that may provide endurance in an arid climate. The ICCR also implements new technologies, including advances in biotechnology and genome editing to create "a safe box for genes needed for new, improved varieties of wheat that will give humanity larger crops and meet the challenges of climate change."

For more details, read the article on the Tel Aviv University website.

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