Barley yellow dwarf takes a beating

A suite of biotechnology approaches has fast-tracked the development of barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) resistance in wheat.

The work at CSIRO Plant Industry could result in the release of new resistant varieties within the next few years. BYDV can be a devastating wheat disease, particularly in higher rainfall areas or wetter years, with annual cost to Australian wheat production conservatively estimated at $30 million.

The CSIRO Plant Industry team, aided by collaborators from China where the disease is a major menace, has successfully transferred to wheat a small portion of one chromosome responsible for BYDV resistance in a wild grass, Thinopyrum intermedium, found in the Middle East and China. The researchers developed a world-first cell culture technique to facilitate this process.

According to principal researcher Phil Larkin, the technique eliminated much unwanted genetic material surrounding the BYDV resistance genes, shaving years off the conventional breeding process.

This research, as is the case for much current disease resistance work, involved an interspecific cross between wheat and a distant wild grass relative, calling for another cell culture technique to overcome the normal crossing barrier between these species and permit wheat embyros to grow.

Molecular marker and doubled haploid technologies have since been used by CSIRO researchers to further accelerate the process and fine tune both BYDV and stem rust resistance in winter wheat lines derived from Lawson, which will lead to the new releases.

See definitions p16 for doubled haploid and molecular marker biotechnologies.

Program 1.6.1 Contact: Dr Phil Larkin 02 6246 5060