Waterwise wheats

Two new quality wheat lines that could out-yield the well-known northern wheat Hartog by up to 15 per cent, especially under drought, are being field-tested by the Queensland Farming Systems Institute.

The increase in yield of the new lines, backcrossed into Hartog, is associated with larger grain weight, thereby reducing screenings to help ensure Prime Hard quality.

Known as Hartog TE lines, the two new wheats were developed under Graingene, a strategic alliance of GRDC, AWB Limited and CSIRO. Launched in April 1999, Graingene aims to generate innovative intellectual property and new generation plant biotechnology research for the grains industry.

Water-use efficiency, or transpiration efficiency (TE), is an important characteristic for dryland wheats like the two new northern lines. Testing for TE previously required a laboratory procedure involving an expensive technique called mass spectrophotometry.

Now there is a molecular marker linked to a gene for TE, an outcome of research undertaken at CSIRO Plant Industry in Canberra. The technique makes screening TE much cheaper and more rapid, and guarantees recovery of high TE, high-yielding breeding lines, according to project leader, Tony Condon. The marker is being used in conjunction with traditional breeding methods to incorporate the high TE trait into varieties across Australia and in close collaboration with state wheat breeding programs.

The work is currently focusing on the needs of Australia's northern growers, with the two new lines backcrossed into Hartog.

Program 1.6.3 Contact: Dr Tony Condon 02 6246 5034

Region North