Low viscosity wheat for improved properties for fermentation and animal feed

Lead Research Organisation: Rothamsted Research
Department Name: Plant Biology & Crop Science


Iin BBSRC Project BB/F014295/1 we identified genes whcih are responsible for determing the soluble non-starch polysaccharide (NSP) content and extract viscosity of wheat grain. Using a GM approach to suppress the action of these genes, we produced wheat plants where NSP content and extract viscosity was lowered by 70-80%. This low-viscosity property would be highly desirable in wheat varieties for whisky and animal feed uses, however a GM approach is not possible due to regulatory costs and consummer resistance. Here we intend to start developing a low-viscosity wheat using the non-GM approach of TILLING to find versions of these genes (alleles) which are inactive. By the project end, we will have identified such alleles for all the target genes and established whether they confer the low-viscosity property and check that there are no adverse effects. Our breeding partner will then begin the process of inroducing these alleles into commercial wheat varieties.


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Description The aims of the award were to carry out the first steps in developing a novel commercial non-GM wheat variety based on our discovery of the genes in BB/F014295/1 responsible for water-extractable arabinoxylan (WE-AX) in wheat grain. From our work with GM wheat we predicted that removal of function of these genes would decrease or abolish viscous extracts from grain which are caused by WE-AX and are a detrimental trait for non-food uses of wheat. The process of producing a wheat which lacks a gene function requires (1) identification of non-functional alleles in each of the three copies of the gene in hexaploid wheat in a population (2) crossing the wheat plants to combine these three alleles in a single wheat line. (3) Extensive backcrossing and testing. This is a slow process and we planned to complete (1) and start (2) in this 18 month project but anticipated that we would need to apply for further funding to complete steps (2) and (3)

Using the wheat TILLING population and methods developed at Rothamsted (Phillips lab) we identified functional mutations in all three forms (homoeologues) of two target genes in hexaploid wheat . This was the key result demonstrating the feasibility of the approach. As expected, single alleles showed no effect on the viscosity trait and we began the process of stacking them (crossing to combine, followed by selfing). We then used these promising results to successfully apply for InnovateUK Agrictech Catalyst funding to complete tasks (2) and (3).
Exploitation Route The alleles are being crossed into elite wheat breeding lines by our industrial partner (Limagrain) as part of our new InnovateUK grant (with Limagrain and Scotch Whisky Research Institute) to take these forward to develop a new commercial low viscosity wheat variety. This would be one of the first commercial wheat varieties in the world where knowledge of gene function is used to develop the main distinguishing trait, rather than simply screening many lines for variation in the trait.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink

Description Yes they are being used by Limagrain to try to develop a low viscosity wheat variety. We have secured a TSB grant BB/N019164/1 to demonstrate the benefits and ensure the development of a successful novel variety.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink
Impact Types Economic

Description Agritech Catalyst Round 4
Amount £75,783 (GBP)
Organisation Innovate UK 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2016 
End 02/2019
Description Collaboration with Limagrain 
Organisation Limagrain
Country France 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution we have had several meetings with Limagrain as our industrial partners and are strengthening the collaboration to try to achieve a new commercial wheat variety
Collaborator Contribution they are actively introducing our alleles into their breeding lines. They have also supplied markers for us to genotype our own lines.
Impact We have some very promising results from this collaboration and Limagrain are on course to develop a new wheat variety using our alleles, possible release date of 2024. This will be one of the first wheat varieties in the world developed using reverse genetics.
Start Year 2013
Description collaboration with Scotch Whisky Research Institute. 
Organisation Scotch Whisky Research Institute
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution we supply grain samples from the novel wheat lines to SWRI for testing for suitability for distilling inudstry
Collaborator Contribution data on properties of wheat grain
Impact we are collaborating on agri-tech catalyst proposal
Start Year 2013
Description The present invention relates to a method for decreasing the viscosity of flour by decreasing soluble arabinoxylan content in a wheat grain, the method comprising reducing expression of Ta GT43_2, Ta GT47_2 or Ta GT61_1 in a wheat plant and wheat grains produced by said method. 
IP Reference WO2012143520 
Protection Patent granted
Year Protection Granted 2012
Licensed Commercial In Confidence
Impact Collaboration with wheat breeding company Limagrain which has led to follow-on award and Agrticech awards.