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2023 Grains Research Update: Genetic breakthrough on soil sodicity constraint to deliver superior wheat varieties

Released on

Released on:
Thursday, 9. February 2023 - 10:00

A breakthrough in grains genetic plant research has unlocked the door to overcoming multiple constraints associated with sodic soils, paving the way to more resilient, high yielding wheat varieties.

The research by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) with co-investment from the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) will be detailed at the upcoming 2023 Grains Research Update in Perth.

Soil sodicity – a high sodium concentration often combined with high soil pH that disrupts soil structure and integrity via several constraints – costs Australian grain growers $1.3 billion per annum in lost yield potential.

DPIRD research scientist Roopali Bhoite said an integrated pre-breeding strategy had been developed using new sequencing technology that targeted gene-rich regions directly linked to traits.

Dr Bhoite said the advance in marker design for new sequencing technology and rapid gene validation tool could be widely used in any applied trait research.

“Soil sodicity has long been a challenge for genetic mapping as it is linked to multiple, complex quantitative constraints, including sodium toxicity, waterlogging and drought at the reproductive stage,” she said.

“Our research identified new single nucleotide polymorphisms, known as SNP or ‘snips’, within the diverse wheat population tagging genes for yield and yield components.

“The discovery provides eight new molecular markers that can be used to develop more tolerant and high yielding stable lines.

“The research also identified several haplotypes – snips that tend to be inherited together – providing more reliable genetic variation that supports yield stability, underpinning more resilient varieties suited to soil and climate variability.

“This integrated approach to plant pre-breeding can be used across a range of crop breeding methods, including genomic selection, haplotype/molecular breeding and/or genome editing to improve crop tolerances and yields.”

The research breakthrough could lead to new wheat varieties with improved tolerance to soil sodicity, which affects an estimated 68 per cent of the Western Australian wheat crop.

Dr Bhoite said there was great excitement about the new pre-breeding research approach as it could be applied across other grains crops to address complex traits and/or soil constraints, such as acidity, salinity and metal toxicities.

“The result could be more tolerant, stable and higher yielding grains varieties that support grower profitability, farm sustainability and global food security,” she said.

The research findings will eventually be shared with the commercial sector to be integrated into plant breeding strategies.

The 2023 GRDC Grains Research Update will be held in Perth on Monday 27 and Tuesday 28 February at Crown Perth. For more information and to register visit the Grain Industry Association of WA website.

A woman in a greenhouse with a wheat plant and a computer.
DPIRD research scientist Dr Roopali Bhoite will tell the 2023 Grain Research Update about genetic research that has overcome multiple constraints associated with sodic soils.

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