Rust Proofing Wheat Production - A Mega Study Finds Novel Sources of Disease Resistance in Wheat

Locations of evaluation experiments of wheat germplasm against rusts and spot blotch. Source: since Green Revolution, India has never seen back in food grain production, thanks to the continuous efforts of agriculture scientists in crop improvement including making the new varieties more resistant to different diseases. One significant constraint to increased wheat production is the variety of rust diseases attacking this crop— leaf rust, stem rust and stripe rust. Sources of resistance to these diseases are known, and have been utilised by wheat breeders for a long time. However, achieving durable resistance can be difficult, and the rust diseases continue to evolve and circumvent the breeders' achievements. Rust is spreading in different wheat growing regions in recent past and The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome issued alerts about the three diseases on 3 February 2017. Rust returned to Europe with a big outbreak in Sicily in 2016, even the hardy durum wheat, used to make pasta, was found to be susceptible to it.

Scientists from ICAR in collaboration with agricultural universities have created a history by evaluating the entire wheat germplasm collection (~20,000 accessions) conserved in the Indian National Genebank at ICAR-National Bureaux of plant Genetic Resources, New Delhi. The findings of the study authored by 37 contributors have been published in ‘PLOS ONE’ The results are of great practical significance keeping in view the continuous search of genes for breeding multiple rusts resistant wheat varieties. This is the first such well thought of experiment conducted ever on genebank collections of this magnitude.


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