World breakthrough on salt-tolerant wheat

Matthew Gilliham
EurekAlert

A team of Australian scientists has bred salt tolerance into a variety of durum wheat that shows improved grain yield by 25% on salty soils.

Using ‘non-GM’ crop breeding techniques, scientists from CSIRO Plant Industry have introduced a salt-tolerant gene into a commercial durum wheat, with spectacular results shown in field tests. Researchers at the University of Adelaide’s Waite Research Institute have led the effort to understand how the gene delivers salinity tolerance to the plants.

The research is the first of its kind in the world to fully describe the improvement in salt tolerance of an agricultural crop – from understanding the function of the salt-tolerant genes in the lab, to demonstrating increased grain yields in the field.

The results are published today in the journal Nature Biotechnology. The paper’s senior author is Dr Matthew Gilliham from the University’s Waite Research Institute and the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology. Lead authors are CSIRO Plant Industry scientists Dr Rana Munns and Dr Richard James and University of Adelaide student Bo Xu.

“This work is significant as salinity already affects over 20% of the world’s agricultural soils, and salinity poses an increasing threat to food production due to climate change,” Dr Munns says.

Read More: World breakthrough on salt-tolerant wheat

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