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ARS Home » Plains Area » Fargo, North Dakota » Edward T. Schafer Agricultural Research Center » Cereal Crops Improvement Research » Research » Research Project #441961

Research Project: Understanding the Molecular Mechanisms of Stress Tolerance in Cereals

Location: Cereal Crops Improvement Research

Project Number: 3060-21000-046-015-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Apr 15, 2022
End Date: Apr 14, 2026

The objectives of this research project are to identify biotic and abiotic stress tolerance traits in cereals and their wild relatives, genetically map and clone underlying genes controlling these traits, and understand the molecular mechanisms of plant stress tolerance to individual and combined stresses.

Cereals are major sources of dietary energy and nutrients in human diets. Global cereals production is highly impacted by biotic and abiotic factors that contribute significantly to yield losses. Extreme weather patterns with the changing climate are posing additional threats to global food production. The current project will investigate stress tolerance in cereals with main emphasis on wheat and wheat wild relatives. The long-term goal is to develop mechanistic understanding of plant stress tolerance response to individual and combined stresses at molecular level. The present day hexaploid wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) originated recently (~8000 years ago) by hybridization between a tetraploid wheat, T. dicoccum (AABB) and a diploid species Aegilops tauschii (2n=2x=14, DD). Ae. tauschii brought biotic/abiotic stress tolerance and environmental adaptations to bread wheat. Due to recent polyploidization events, the hexaploid wheat lacks sufficient genetic diversity. On the other hand, wheat progenitors and wild relatives are rich in stress tolerance traits. Therefore, we are investigating a large collection of a spring wheat genotypes and wheat progenitors and wild relatives including Ae. tauschii (DD), T. dicoccum, T. monococcum, and Ae. umbellulata for biotic and abiotic stress tolerance traits. Under the initial phases of this project, genomic resources will be developed in Ae. umbellulata by generating a chrosomsome-scale reference genome assembly and genotyping of ~400 Ae. umbellulata accessions by sequencing. Ae. umbellulata accessions will be subjected to large-scale multi-trait phenotyping to identify germplasm with high tolerance/resistance to biotic (e.g. wheat rusts, tan spot, bacterial leaf streak, etc.) and abiotic (drought, heat, salinity, etc.) stresses. Genotyping and phenotyping data will be analyzed to identify genomic regions/ candidate genes involved in individual and combined stress tolerance responses. Cloned genes will be investigated at molecular level to understand their roles in stress tolerance mechanisms. Further, important traits/genes will be introgressed into wheat for their deployment in cultivated varieties.