Crown Rot Resistance Work from the Leslie Research Facility, Queensland

Author: Damian Herde, DAFF Queensland | Date: 16 Feb 2013

Three rows of healthy plants on the left and three rows of withered plants on the right

DAFF line VS severely damaged control

Creating superior crown rot resistance in wheat is the aim of Queensland scientists at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), based at the Leslie Research Facility in Toowoomba.

Crown Rot causes an estimated $79m per annum in yield losses for Australian growers and has severely hindered the industry for more than 60 years, despite the efforts of Australian and international researchers.

The current DAFF team of crown rot researchers, led by Dr Damian Herde, have only been developing wheat germplasm for a few years now, but have already released a number of batches of lines to wheat breeding groups throughout Australia.

"We are confident our lines are going to help wheat breeders defeat Crown Rot," Dr Herde said.

Dr Herde and his researchers have used genetic research to gain a greater understanding of why some wheat plants were resistant to Crown Rot and others were not.

Dr Damian Herde and Dr Cassandra Percy

Drs Damian Herde and Cassandra Percy

"While the idea of genetic resistance to Crown Rot has been known in the scientific community for decades, the ability to capture this resistance and produce a successful disease-free variety has remained elusive," he said.

"Our research has involved using old-fashioned techniques combined with modern understanding to identify how genes are passed on by the parent plants resulting in disease-resistant plants.

"This has helped us to properly screen, cross-breed and continue to develop new wheat lines which we believe will have even greater disease resistance."

Crown Rot in the 2012 Season

The 2012 winter growing season was very conducive to the crown rot disease. The wet weather during 2010 and 2011 had built up inoculum levels, and the wet start to 2012 followed by a hot, dry finish was the perfect combination for crown rot damage.

While the damage was costly for growers, this presented an ideal test for potential resistant wheat lines, enabling DAFF to capitalise on the conditions.

A row of dead, dry plants on the left and a row of healthy-looking wheat on the right with only minor damage. 

Severe crown rot in 2012 at Wellcamp; plant death in susceptible line VS a DAFF partially resistant line

"Our 2012 testing has shown we have developed some very promising material," Dr Herde said, "with high resistance levels, as well as strong yield potential under the severe crown rot."

Crown Rot Laboratory Workshop, DAFF, 2012

International scientists took a keen interest in research being carried out by their Queensland counterparts in the field of crown rot in wheat.

Scientists from DAFF showcased their crown rot resistance research to national and international scientists, and representatives from Australia’s Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), at Toowoomba in October, 2012.

DAFF Crop Protection Systems Science Leader, Dr Emma Colson, said the field tour was part of the 1st International Crown Rot Workshop for Wheat Improvement, being held in Narrabri, New South Wales.

The field tour was held at the Leslie Research Facility and the DAFF Wellcamp site, followed by a two-day laboratory workshop to demonstrate the department’s leading scientific methods. Dr Colson said the department, in partnership with the Grains Research and Development Corporation, was a major investor and researcher in the area of crown rot, and while there may never be a variety that was immune to crown rot, researchers were developing parent material for breeding companies so they would eventually be able to release plant varieties that reduced crop yield loss due to the disease.

She said as part of the process to speed-up the development of crown rot resistant cultivars, scientists and wheat-breeders from around the world were visiting Australiafor the 1st International Crown Rot Workshop for Wheat Improvement.

"The field tour of Wellcamp is an important part of this international event, as will the two-day intensive workshop for national and international scientists and students athe Leslie Research Facility," Dr Colson said.

"There, they will learn techniques for working with disease fungus, crossing wheat lines and effective field and glasshouse screening methods to develop crown rot resistant lines."

Participants and DAFF staff during the crown rot workshop, October 2012

Participants and DAFF staff during the crown rot workshop, October 2012

GRDC Project Code DAQ00167

Region North