Breakthrough to fast-track yellow spot research

Author: Natalie Lee | Date: 25 Jun 2014

Close up of a wheat leaf infected with yellow spot disease, held in a hand.

Caption: Wheat infected with yellow spot disease.

A breakthrough achieved by Western Australian scientists will speed up the delivery of new wheat varieties with resistance to yellow spot – arguably the country’s most costly wheat disease.

Yellow spot, also known as tan spot, causes crop losses in WA alone of $140 million annually, plus control costs of an additional $209 million.

National crop losses are estimated to be $212 million, plus control costs of $463 million. In hard-hit areas, the disease costs wheat growers up to $30 per hectare in lost production and control costs.

A woman in a lab

Caption: CCDM program leader Caroline Moffat says a breakthrough in yellow spot research will accelerate the development of resistant varieties.

With funding support from the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), researchers at Curtin University’s Centre for Crop and Disease Management (CCDM) have ‘deleted’ an important gene in a strain of the yellow spot fungus (Pyrenophora tritici-repentis).

“This gene deletion capability is an extremely powerful new tool for yellow spot researchers and will accelerate the development of resistant varieties,” CCDM program leader Caroline Moffat said.

Dr Moffat and her team removed the ToxA gene via a process in which it was replaced with another gene – a world-first achievement for yellow spot.

ToxA is the major toxin of yellow spot. It kills wheat cells, enabling the fungus to colonise the plant.

“Our achievement paves the way for removing other yellow spot genes of interest and allows us to study different toxins produced by the fungus. These have so far been masked by ToxA,” Dr Moffat said.

“The technique will facilitate the identification of molecular markers for wheat breeders, for use in breeding programs to eliminate yellow spot susceptibility.”

Information to help wheat growers manage yellow spot is available in the GRDC Yellow Spot Fact Sheet at

Information about GRDC funded research into yellow spot and other fungal diseases is contained in the GRDC Cereal Foliar Fungal Diseases Supplement at


Contact Details

For Interviews

Caroline Moffat, CCDM
08 9266 9186


Natalie Lee, Cox Inall Communications
08 9864 2034, 0427 189 827

GRDC Project Code CUR00012

Region West