Thursday, 24 May 2012

Salt Resistant Wheat


Advance in Genetics: Salt Tolerant Wheat (Oral)
Jarvis Aland

The recent advance in genetics I have chosen to focus upon is one made by twelve University of Adelaide scientists. The group of twelve scientists managed to breed salt tolerance into a species of wheat. The salt tolerant trait of this new wheat generates numerous advantageous for farmers, Australia and the rest of the world.

The wheat of choice in this study was Durum wheat. Durum wheat is best known for its uses in pastas and couscous, while also being used to feed live stock. Pasta, being the popular food it is all around the world, makes Durum wheat a largely produced and exported product. Australia just so happens to be one of the major exporters of Durum Wheat, producing an average of 24 million tons per year. The twelve scientists also believe that the Global Food Requirements are going to increase dramatically in the next few decades, highlighting the importance of extending the area that farmers can grow wheats. The main obstacle that was standing in the way of farmers was that salinity in the soil would prevent important functions, such as photosynthesis, in wheats. Michael Pitman and Andre Lauchli, two experts in the role of salinity in ecosystems, reported that at least 20% of all irrigated land is salt affected. However, thanks to the Scientists from the University of Adelaide farmers will now be able to grow Durum wheat in soil that contains salt. To make it even better the scientists managed to enter the salt tolerant gene into the wheat without Genetically Modifying Processes. So how did they do it?

Well, the scientists managed to locate an ancestral cousin of the Durum Wheat which had a salt tolerant gene. The scientists, then cross bred the two wheats so that the salt tolerant gene could be passed down into the future generations of Durum wheat. The scientists are now using their discovery to try and introduce the salt tolerant gene into bread wheat.

 
Figure 1: Salt Tolerant Durum wheat, Cosmos 2012.

 Figure 2: Pastas, Aglio 2010. 

References

Figure 1: Aglio (2010) Pastas. [image online] Available at: http://www.aglioolioepeperoncino.com/2010_09_01_archive.html [Accessed: 25/05/2012].
Figure 2: Cosmos (2012) Salt Tolerant Durum Wheat. [image online] Available at: http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/news/5400/world-breakthrough-salt-tolerant-wheat [Accessed: 25/05/2012].
Article: University of Adelaide 2012, Wheat grain yield on saline soils is improved by an ancestral Na+ transporter gene, Viewed 14/03/12. Available at:
Science Daily 2012, World Breakthrough on Salt Tolerant Wheat, Viewed 14/03/12. Available at: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120311150717.htm



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