Home > CSIRO develops salt-tolerant variety of durum wheat

CSIRO develops salt-tolerant variety of durum wheat

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article image CSIRO researchers, Dr Richard James and Dr Rana Munns, examine a salt-tolerant wheat trial near Canberra. (Image credit – Carl Davies, CSIRO.)

CSIRO scientists have delivered some good news for wheat farmers battling salinity. They have developed a salt-tolerant variety of durum wheat which outperforms other varieties by 25 % on salty soils.

Field trials into the effectiveness of the new variety of durum wheat have resulted in some excellent results.

CSIRO’s Dr Rana Munns explained, "Salinity already affects more than 20 % of the world’s agricultural soils and is an increasing threat to food production due to climate change."

She added that the team, which has collaborated closely with researchers at the University of Adelaide, now understands how a specific gene delivers salinity tolerance to the durum wheat.

A world first, the research describes the development of a salt-tolerant agricultural crop. This starts from understanding the function of the salt-tolerant gene in the lab and moves on to demonstrating increased grain yields in the field.

CSIRO researcher Dr Richard James, who led the successful field trials in 2009, said, “Under salty conditions, the new salt tolerant breeding line has outperformed normal commercial durum wheat, with increased yields of up to 25 per cent.”

“Farmers now have additional options for maximising profits by growing a premium wheat in those more saline paddocks which they may typically avoid or reserve for less valuable crops.”

The results of the trials have now been published in the journal Nature Biotechnology. The senior author of the study is Dr Matthew Gilliham from the University Adelaide's Waite Research Institute; and the lead authors are the CSIRO’s Dr Rana Munns, CSIRO’s Dr Richard James, and University of Adelaide student Bo Xu.

Dr Gilliham said, “The salt-tolerance comes from a gene that stops sodium getting to the leaves. This gene was introduced into modern wheat from an ancestral cousin, Triticum monococcum."

The research was supported by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and is a collaborative project between:

  • NSW Department of Primary Industries
  • The ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology
  • University of Adelaide
  • The Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics

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