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Faster Way to Improve Wheat

By David Elstein
January 16, 2002

Molecular markers that can speed up wheat breeding to improve quality and disease resistance traits have been found by Agricultural Research Service scientists.

The long-term goal of research geneticist Gina L. Brown-Guedira and molecular biologist John P. Fellers is to find molecular markers that can be used to incorporate longer-lasting resistance to major wheat diseases including leaf rust, Karnal bunt fungus and fusarium. Brown-Guedira and Fellers work at the ARS Plant Science and Entomology Research Unit in Manhattan, Kan.

The researchers believe they will be able to preserve the quality and yield of wheat while improving its resistance to insects and diseases. They are seeking a way to identify wheat that is resistant to pathogens.

The markers they’ve developed have already yielded some positive results. The scientists were able to identify a molecular marker for a gene that holds the information for nearly 25 percent of the resistance to Karnal bunt fungus. Quarantined by 72 countries, the Karnal bunt fungus lowers the quality of flour in addition to causing yield losses.

Researchers from around the world have identified markers for several genes in wheat that will be useful in wheat breeding programs. These include disease-resistance genes, insect-resistance genes, and quality and environmental stress genes.

For a more detailed story on this research, see this month’s issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific research agency.

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