Engineering wheat for take-all resistance

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


Take-all disease has a substantial impact on wheat yield throughout the cereal-growing areas of the world and is a major threat to food security. The cost of this fungal disease to wheat production in the UK is estimated at £85-340m per annum. Take-all is a ubiquitous and chronic problem that that imposes serious limitations on wheat production as roughly half of UK wheat crops are affected. Introduction of genes through conventional breeding strategies relies on the identification of resistances through screening, and subsequent crossing into elite varieties, and is the approach taken in the wheat pre-breeding LoLa (BB/J004596/1). Our proposal takes a complementary approach that involves the direct introduction of cloned genes for take-all resistance into wheat through genetic modification (GM) which has the potential for more rapid delivery of useful genes into elite wheat varieties.

We have assembled a customised toolkit for triterpene metabolic engineering in plants consisting of characterised genes and enzymes from oat and other plant species. Our aim is to engineer single and multiple steps for triterpene synthesis into hexaploid wheat and evaluate the consequences of this for triterpene production, plant performance and take-all resistance. The development of methods for high-efficiency transformation of wheat with multiple genes within this proposal will lay the foundation for introduction of other valuable multi-gene traits/processes (e.g. nitrogen fixation, C4 photosynthesis, polygenic pest/pathogen resistance, seed micronutrient content) into wheat in the future.

The key deliverables and outcomes of this research programme will be:
1. Evaluation of a transgenic approach to engineer wheat for the synthesis of protective triterpenes;
2. Establish a multi-gene wheat transformation platform;
3. Provide industry with a potential solution to take-all disease;
4. Training of project scientists in cross-disciplinary and applied crop research


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