Wheat is a staple crop across most of the developing world and globally provides about 20 per cent of the calories and proteins consumed by humans each day. Wheat production needs to increase dramatically in coming years to meet the needs of a rapidly growing world population, but disease is a continuing threat to current and future yields.
One of wheats worst enemies is wheat yellow rust, a disease responsible for yield losses of up to 70 percent or complete crop loss if the disease occurs early in the growing season. To overcome the devastating economic and environmental impact of yellow rust, breeders and scientists have developed wheat varieties resistant to the disease. However, a general lack of understanding about how the yellow rust pathogen overcomes the plants resistance means that new varieties have not stayed resistant for long. This five-year project aims to tackle this.
Using new DNA sequencing technologies and a variety of strains of wheat yellow rust from Africa, India and the UK,we will sequence current and historical collections of yellow rust to understand how the disease has evolved over time and across continents. We hope that this new information at the DNA level will help maximize the potential for sustainable and durable resistance to the wheat yellow rust pathogen. Identifying those wheat genes best able to resist the pathogen for longer should enable new varieties of yellow rust resistant wheat to be bred, grown and harvested.
Supported by the Sustainable Crop Production Research for International Development (SCPRID)