Wheat Association Genetics for Trait Advancement and Improvement of Lineages

Lead Research Organisation: John Innes Centre
Department Name: Contracts Office


In the UK, our more important crop, wheat, is attacked by many pathogens. The two main pillars of disease control are pesticides and resistant varieties. New legislation by the EU will present increasing obstacles to the use of pesticides from 2014 onwards. Improved disease resistance is important in wheat breeding and will become crucial once this legislation comes fully into effect. Almost all research in plant pathology focuses on single diseases but in field conditions, it is normal for crops to be attacked by several parasites simultaneously. We will research the genetics of resistances to multiple diseases and their impact on yield using association genetics (AG) on a panel of 480 wheat varieties, including those commercially significant at present as well as progenitors covering the family tree of wheat in the UK for the past century. We will study the main fungal diseases that attack leaves and stems of wheat plants and present the main threats to yield in the UK. There is currently good resistance to powdery mildew and it is important that this desirable situation continues. Resistance to Septoria tritici blotch has improved over the last ten years but is still the most important wheat disease. Resistance to yellow rust is good by international standards but is often not durable, being quickly overcome by evolution of virulence in the fungus. There have been severe epidemics of brown rust in recent years and the average level of resistance to this disease must be improved. An important goal is to generate a resource for use by the whole wheat research community. The AG analysis and associated data and seed stocks will be a resource for research on traits which are currently important and will enable breeders and geneticists to respond to new threats, such as diseases which become important as a result of climate change or new agronomic practices. The AG approach will therefore enable us to be forearmed against future challenges.


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