White headed wheat = smiling scientists

For crop producers the presence of any disease is a dreaded and much unwelcome situation. But for researchers like us, disease is the one thing that you want most in a disease resistance trial. In fact, most trials are inoculated with the pathogen in question to ensure that resistant and susceptible plants in the trial are clearly distinguishable.

In a disease resistance trial, a population of resistant and susceptible plants is planted in order to determine the underlying genetic element(s) that is responsible for the resistance. The severity of the disease is scored individually on each plant multiple times during the growing season, and the results are, together with molecular marker data, analysed with computer programmes with built-in algorithms that can determine where in the genome a resistance gene or QTL is located. This gene/QTL can then be isolated and incorporated into future cultivars to confer resistance in producers’ fields.

The tolerance to Fusarium Crown Rot (FCR) in a South African bread wheat cultivar is one of our key interests and we’re conducting a research project to determine the genetics of this tolerance. We have field trials planted at Napier (South Africa) and at Tosari (Australia) and we’re very excited to see good FCR infection all around! With preliminary results already available from 2019’s trails, we trust that the 2020 data from the two sites combined will confirm our findings and allow us to pinpoint the resistance accurately.

White tillers are typical symptoms of FCR infection in the field at Tosari.

The project is funded by The Winter Cereal Trust and is jointly led by Dr Renée Prins (CenGen) and Dr Anke Martin (University of Southern Queensland), in collaboration with Dr Sandra Lamprecht (ARC–Plant Health and Protection) and Mr Driecus Lesch (Sensako).