Highest-yielding salt-tolerant wheat
Recent field trials in northern New South Wales proved that durum wheat varieties containing new salt tolerant genes outperformed the other varieties in saline soils.
The breakthrough will enable wheat farmers to achieve higher yields of durum wheat in saline soils. Although durum wheat is less salt tolerant than bread wheat it attracts a premium price because of its superior pasta making qualities.
The CSIRO Plant Industry research team responsible for the breakthrough recently isolated two salt tolerance genes (Nax1 and Nax2) derived from the old wheat relative Triticum monococcum.
"Both genes work by excluding sodium, which is potentially toxic, from the leaves by limiting its passage from the roots to the shoots," says the leader of the project, Dr Rana Munns.
Through traditional, non-GM breeding methods aided by molecular markers the team was able to introduce the salt exclusion genes into durum wheat lines.
Salinity, a major environmental issue affecting much of Australia's prime wheat-growing areas, often prevents farmers from growing durum wheat.