Biotech Updates

Old and Exotic Varieties Produce New Genetic Variation for Wheat Cultivation

October 12, 2022

In addition to the almost 9,000 winter wheat accessions, the scientistsalso grew elite varieties in the trial field and investigated resistance toyellow rust, among other traits. Photo: IPK Leibniz Institute/C. Martin

In the Federal Ex situ Gene Bank at the IPK Leibniz Institute in Germany, 150,000 old plant varieties are preserved. Aside from negative traits, old and exotic varieties possess many valuable gene variants that have been lost in modern varieties but may be crucial for plant breeding in the future.

The IPK Leibniz Institute's extensive collection of old wheat varieties was tested for their yield performance and resistance to yellow rust not only in the laboratory but also in field trials. Using an interdisciplinary approach involving plant breeders, plant geneticists, plant pathologists, and bioinformaticians, they succeeded in detecting new biodiversity from old varieties for yield performance and resistance to yellow rust infestation in order to use them for crop production. The researchers also used the results to develop bridging lines for wheat breeding from promising old varieties by crossing them with current varieties.

The performance of the resulting progeny surprised the researchers. They observed higher yields in some bridging lines as compared to important current elite varieties. Prof. Dr. Jochen Reif, coordinator of the consortium and head of the research group, is convinced that the biodiversity of the elite pool can be increased using a new valuable genetic variation of the bridge lines and it is of great importance to tackling the huge problems that climate change poses to agriculture.

For more details, read the news release from IPK Leibniz Institute.

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