Improved breeding for all-climate wheat

Jack Christopher

Researchers at the Queensland Alliance of Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) are helping boost wheat’s ability to yield well in good years and survive droughts.

Dr Jack Christopher and his Toowoomba-based team have developed a technique to breed-in resilience to dry conditions, particularly around flowering, without compromising production in good seasons.

They started with three elite wheat varieties popular for their high-yield potential in the western, southern and northern grain regions – Mace (PBR), Scout (PBR) and Suntop (PBR), respectively.

They then developed a technique to introduce subtle genetic differences across the genomes of these elite varieties, selecting to avoid introducing gene combinations that curb yield in good years.

Now, the best of the improved breeding lines has consistently exhibited high yield in trials at 21 sites across Australia. Some lines had a greater than 85 per cent chance of out-yielding the three elite parent varieties in dry years.

Dr Christopher said extensive field tests indicate that the enhanced lines can reliably lift crop performance in the dry seasons.

Prompt uptake by commercial breeders has meant that advanced new wheat varieties with this capability could start reaching growers within a few years.

Dr Christopher is a team leader at the Centre for Crop Science at QAAFI – a collaboration between the University of Queensland and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

This project is funded by the University of Queensland, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Queensland and the Grain Research and Development Corporation.

Featured Image: Jack Christopher