Cereal rust research and cereal breeding at the Plant Breeding Institute Cobbitty

Left: Dr Colin Wellings and Mr Keshab Kandel, PSI Cobbitty, conduct research into the genetic control of wheat stripe rust. Right: Mr Matthew Williams and Mr Paul Kavanagh, PSI Cobbitty. Field rust nurseries are established at Cobbitty every year to assess the response of advanced material from cereal breeding programs throughout Australia.

THE UNIVERSITY of Sydney has had a long involvement in cereal rust research, spanning some 80 years. Early work at the University clearly demonstrated that sustained control of cereal rusts could be achieved only with a nationally coordinated approach. This led to the establishment of the National Cereal Rust Control Program, on which the ACRCP is closely modelled, and which was led by Professor Bob McIntosh until his retirement in 2000.

The current PBIC rust team, led by Professor Robert Park with assistance from Dr Harbans Bariana and Dr Colin Wellings (seconded to the University of Sydney from NSW Agriculture), is working on 13 different rust diseases. It is responsible for monitoring the rust pathogens throughout Australia; it is involved in research to identify, characterise and incorporate new sources of rust resistance in all cereal crops; and it interacts closely with Australian cereal breeding programs to ensure that the resistances identified find their way into new varieties. Two examples of rust resistances introduced into Australian wheat breeding by staff at the PBIC are the genes Lr24/Sr24 (used in some 28 wheat varieties; e.g. Torres, Janz, GilesPBR logo), and Lr37/Yr17/Sr38 (used in about 12 wheat varieties to date; e.g. CammPBR logo, Bowie, SunvalePBR logo).

In 2002, some 60,000 cereal lines were rust-tested by PBIC staff for Australian cereal breeders. The information generated in these tests is relevant only to the situation in farmers' crops if the right rust isolates are used. Monitoring the rust populations in fields throughout Australia provides an overview of what rusts are present in commercial crops, and determines which rust isolates are used in rust -testing a breeder's material. It also allows timely warnings to be issued to farming communities in the event of the identification of a new and potentially damaging rust strain.

Program 3 Contact: Professor Robert Park 02 9351 8806 email robertp@camden.usyd.edu.au