New Genetic Variation from Old and Exotic Varieties for Environmentally Friendly Wheat Cultivation
Published:08 Nov.2022    Source:Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research

Gene banks worldwide make an important contribution to the conservation of biological diversity. In addition to negative traits, old and exotic varieties possess many valuable gene variants that have been lost in modern varieties but may be crucial for plant production in the future. But how can this hidden treasure of valuable biodiversity be tapped for agriculture? This is the question that a research team has been investigating. In an interdisciplinary approach involving plant breeders, plant geneticists, plant pathologists and bioinformaticians, they succeeded in detecting new biodiversity from old varieties for yield performance and resistance to yellow rust infestation in order to leverage it for crop production.

Thanks to the continuous funding of the work over six years so far by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, it was possible to test the IPK Leibniz Institute's extensive collection of old wheat varieties for their yield performance and resistance to yellow rust in the laboratory, but also in field trials. "This required a logistical masterstroke from all project participants and many innovative approaches to evaluate the potential of the old varieties without disruptive effects," says Dr. Albert Schulthess, first author of the study. To determine the yield potential, the old varieties were crossed with adapted elite varieties, for example. Only then became the yield potential of the old varieties clearly visible.