Inducing novel broad spectrum disease resistance in wheat

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Animal and Plant Sciences


This project will apply a novel high throughput screening methodology, combined with conventional breeding, to develop new wheat varieties in which broad spectrum tolerance and resistance to fungal pathogens and enhanced nutrient-use efficiency are simultaneously induced and selected via a novel mechanism. The UK farming industry spends about 30m on wheat fungicides, spraying an area of over 2 million hectares. This helps to maintain higher yields than for organically-grown wheat, but with significant financial and environmental costs. Now, implementation of the revision of 91/414/EEC means most of the effective fungicides (Cyproconazole, Fenbuconazole, Bitertanol, Carbendazim, Dinocap, Epoxiconazole, Fenbuconazole, Flusilazole, Iprodione, Mancozeb, Maneb, Metconazole, Quinoxyfen, Tebuconazole) against diseases of wheat are likely to be withdrawn, so that the risks of major crop failure are increased. This has serious implications for food security and farmer's incomes. The aim of this project is to combine recent advances in (1) fundamental plant biology, (2) high-throughput mass-spectrometry and (3) modern plant breeding techniques, in an innovative way to produce new varieties of wheat less dependant on pesticides and chemical inputs for optimal yields. The varieties will be selected with enhanced, and durable, broad spectrum resistance or tolerance to disease making them equally suited for use in conventional and organic farming systems. Field trials of candidate new varieties will be used to select the best variety for commercial development. Wheat will be used in this programme but, once implemented, the technology can be applied to many other crops.


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Title Gaiamycota 
Description Exhibited at the festival of the mind in Sheffield 2016 and seen by over 15,000 members of the public, Gaiamycota was a multimedia installation investigating the role of symbiosis in maintaining and restoring the function of the earth system, especially soil. Gaiamycota took the form of a new living sculpture, video, and original score exhibited at the Millennium Gallery, Sheffield over 5 days in September 2015. In addition, the pice included a one-off performance art piece telling the wider story of Gaiamycota taking the form of 5 fictional characters (including Prof Cameron as one of the actors) acting out a modern fairytale using non-verbal interruptive movement and music to communicated the roles of symbiotic microbes in maintaining the earth systems as fit for human habitation and providing warnings about their ability to buffer man-made climate change. 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact Significant media coverage Development of a major science art collaborative application to the Arts Council 
Description We have discovered that the immune system of wheat plants is improved by contact with soil microbes. We have also show that genes plants need to communicate with soil microbes have been lost in many wheat cultivars.
Exploitation Route We are currently working with industry partner RAGT Seeds to commercialize the results.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment

Description Outputs of this research formed a central part of two talks delivered by Prof. Cameron at COP21 in Paris regarding soils and food security in the face of climate change Outputs from this research are being used by the industrial partner to in form breeding decisions
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment
Impact Types Economic,Policy & public services

Description Harnessing and integrating disease suppressive microbes and synthetic soils for sustainable, low input horticulture
Amount £1,566,560 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/T010789/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2020 
End 05/2023