"Promising" gene with resistance to wheat disease identified in study

Wisconsin State Farmer
Stem rust is a fungal disease to wheat and other crops that has caused dramatic crop failures resulting in significant yield losses worldwide.

Scientists at the Australian research agency Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation have identified a gene that could resist the devastating wheat disease stem rust.

Stem rust, a type of fungus, attacks wheat crops and actively threatens the global food supply. The gene located inside the fungus itself could potentially be triggered and offer another form of defense against it, a press release said. Stem rust is a specific danger to farms in Africa and the Middle East, and wheat is the third-most grown crop in the world that provides 20% of global human nutrition.

“Discovery of this resistance gene continues our effective collaboration with international partners that has already resulted in great advances to build resistance to this potentially devastating pathogen,” said Peter Dodds, chief research scientist at CSIRO.

The discovery allows for wheat variety breeders to introduce the resistance gene to new wheat crop varieties so they become stronger against stem rust, which can destroy a wheat crop in just weeks. Initial studies show the varieties have "exceptional" resistance to the disease and the gene can be bred much more quickly and accurately than with previous methods.