Australian wheat has a new defence to a rusty old problem

CSIROscope Blog

By Evans Lagudah, Chief Research Scientist and Sambasivam Periyannan, Postdoctoral Fellow.

Rusts are a type of fungal disease that affect many plants, including wheat and some fruits. In Australia, rusts are a particular concern to wheat and barley farmers, with whole seasons’ crop sometimes being wiped out. Now new Australian research has added another line of defence against these crop diseases.

Australian crops have been well protected for the past 60 years by breeding rust-resistant crop varieties that inhibit the development of rust diseases. Rust pathogens, however, are very adaptable and can rapidly evolve into new strains that can infect previously rust-resistant plants.

In 1999 a new virulent strain of stem rust was discovered in Uganda (so-called “Ug99”) which has spread to Iran and is encroaching on Asia. Ug99 is particularly devastating as it can overcome many of the current resistance genes leaving many wheat crops vulnerable to…

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3 responses to “Australian wheat has a new defence to a rusty old problem

  1. This is a genetically modified (GM) wheat. If approved for a licence to sell the seeds to farmers, I think I’m right to say that this will be the first GM wheat to get such a licence for commercial growing anywhere in the world. Are other GM crops already being grown commercially in Australia?

    • Yes, you are absolutely right, this would be the first GM wheat to be grown commercially. I am not sure about other GM crops in Australia but I do know there has been research on some, bananas for eg. Would be interesting to know what the situation is over there regarding GM crops….

      • No GM is grown in Britain except for a few scientific trials. Likewise the rest of Europe except for 2 crops which are grown commercially in some EU states. A maize (Zea mays) and, I think, a potato (Solanum tuberosum). Here’s a timeline GM is a current topic of debate here, which I blog about quite often.

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