Biotech Updates

Researchers Unlock Genetic Clusters for Improved Nitrogen Use Efficiency and Grain Protein in Wheat

March 22, 2023

Murdoch University researchers have identified 20 different genetic clusters that are associated with higher grain protein and yield in wheat through multiple processes within the plant.

High yield and high grain protein in wheat determine its profitability. However, nitrogen use efficiency and protein content in Australian wheat are typically low due to poor soils and irregular rainfall. To calculate nitrogen use efficiency, the Murdoch University team measured the total amount of nitrogen partitioned in the wheat grain (the nitrogen remobilized from leaf to grain) as a proportion of the available nitrogen in the soil. This makes nitrogen use efficiency a key indicator of simultaneously increased wheat grain protein content and yield.

The researchers started with two wheat varieties with high-grain protein content, LRPB Spitfire from Australia and Bethlehem from Israel, which they crossed with high-yielding Australian varieties to create six genetically pure or ‘inbred' lines used in breeding. To identify genetic material that combines high yield with high protein, the six crosses along with LRPB Spitfire and Bethlehem were grown at four field sites with distinct environments. Up to 22 traits associated with high grain protein content were measured at the sites.

Clusters that can improve both yield and protein content were identified. These genes are not only effective independently but have an additive effect when used in tandem. Three genes that simultaneously drive grain protein and yield will be made available to Australian breeding companies.

For more details, read the news article in the Groundcover.

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