Deep-sown wheats — down to 10 cm — can be an important drought strategy. They can also be used as a tactic to avoid potential seed losses to herbicides, or mice and other pest problems.
Current semi-dwarf wheat varieties have shorter shoots (coleoptiles) and reduced seedling vigour, which can lead to poor establishment and reduced yield.
World-leading research by a CSIRO team, headed by Greg Rebetzke, has now identified molecular markers linked to genes for longer coleoptile length and greater seedling vigour. This means that many wheat breeding lines can been screened rapidly and those identified as containing these genes can be used for traditional crossing into commercial varieties.
The results of field trials are confirming laboratory findings of good emergence with no reduction in yield. Coleoptile lengths have reached up to 15 cm, allowing seed to be sown 10 cm deep, with 100 per cent establishment. An additional benefit is that better emergence helps the wheat to out-compete weeds.
Wheat breeders across the country will be involved in testing promising lines, and Dr Rebetzke says that, thanks to GRDC funding, Australia is leading the world in this important area.
Program 1.6.2 Contact: Dr Greg Rebetzke 02 6246 5153, email: Greg.Rebetzke@pi.csiro.au