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High-tech analyser to take breeding technology to the next level

Released on

Released on:
Thursday, 8. March 2018 - 10:15

High-tech analyser to take breeding technology to the next level

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development has acquired a new state-of-the-art machine to accelerate the development of new high-quality wheat and barley varieties.

The instrument, called a Ploidy Analyser, is being used to improve a rapid plant breeding method, known as doubled haploids. 

The bench top analyser quickly and accurately identifies doubled haploid plants, a process that can now be completed in five minutes in the laboratory, rather than five months to grow the plant out in the glasshouse.

Department research officer Sue Broughton said the Ploidy Analyser would enable the department to generate more doubled haploids for pre-breeding research and commercial clients with greater efficiency.

“Up until now, we have had to grow our plants for five or six months before we could identify doubled haploid plants that are fertile with seed,” she said.

“With the Ploidy Analyser, we simply chop up a small piece of leaf tissue together with a fluorescent dye, then UV light is applied to provide a result that confirms whether the plant is a fertile doubled haploid or not. The process is very quick and only takes a few minutes.”

Ms Broughton said the Ploidy Analyser would enable the department to make further improvements to doubled haploid technology for pre-breeding research and commercial breeding clients.

“Over the past five to seven years, continuous improvements to the intricate multi-step process have resulted in major efficiency gains in doubled haploid production, which are now used routinely in commercial wheat and barley breeding and related genetic research,” she said.

“Its key advantage is in reducing the period between crossing parental varieties and the selection of pure breeding lines, which in traditional plant breeding takes four to five years but with doubled haploid technology it takes less than 12 months.”

The department’s Cereal Doubled Haploid Program delivers more than 10,000 doubled haploid wheat and barley lines per year to Australian plant breeding companies and researchers.

One of the program’s clients, South Australian wheat breeding company LongReach Plant Breeders, has released seven doubled haploid wheat varieties in recent years.

“Doubled haploids are an important part of our breeding strategy and represent about 80 per cent of our breeding program,” senior wheat breeder Dr Bertus Jacobs said.

“This technology has enabled us to release commercial varieties within six years and also means that improved genetic material is cycled back through the program faster to generate more rapid genetic gains for Australian growers.”

A large number of doubled haploid populations have also been delivered to researchers at the department and across Australia, with nearly 60 populations delivered in the past five years.

Department researchers, like Manisha Shankar, use doubled haploids for grains pre-breeding work in genetic studies, gene mapping and the development of molecular markers.

“Doubled haploids are an important part of our research because they produce fixed or ‘true breeding’ lines, which can be multiplied and reproduced without genetic change occurring,” Dr Shankar said.

“They enable us to replicate trials across different locations and years and are ideal for studying complex, inherited traits, such as disease resistance.”

The department is expected to deliver more than 12,000 doubled haploid lines in 2018.

Two women in lab coats with a small machine
DPIRD research officer Sue Broughton (left) and research officer Dr Marieclaire Castello with the department’s new Ploidy Analyser, which will boost wheat and barley breeding and research.

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