New wheat variety aids fight against blight

By Catherine Boal

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Durum wheat, Wheat

Researchers have created a new strain of wheat with an inbuilt
resistance to devastating scab blight which infects wheat heads -
reducing crop yields as well as market value and quality.

Scab blight is caused by the fungus Fusarium graminearum and affects durum wheat, used for making pasta products. The disease infects wheat heads, shrivelling the kernels and releasing toxins which diminish the quality of the crop. Currently durum wheat crops have no inbuilt resistance to the blight, unlike wheatgrass which appears to be immune to its effects. By extracting chromosomes from wheatgrass and inserting them into a new breed of wheat, US scientists from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have discovered a way of ensuring future durum crops could prove more resilient to scab blight. Further testing showed that the new genetically enhanced wheat variety remains stable enough to retain its resistance when propagated from seed. In field tests, the modified durum had an infection rate of 21 per cent while generic durum recorded 80 per cent infection. In addition, the new wheat grew taller and matured one to two weeks later with a 100 per cent seed germination rate. Researchers devised the wheat not for direct use by farmers but as a tool for scientists, geneticists and breeders to develop future scab-resistant

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