Friday, 25 May 2012

Salt Tolerant Gene in Wheat to spread

Wheat is perhaps the most important source of nutrition within humans. With a global rate of production of around 650 million tons a year and an expected doubling of global demand for it, it is no wonder that the expansion of wheat crops is of utmost importance.

Wheat is grown on a massive scale, spreading over much of the world’s agricultural land. Due to the level of salt tolerance wheat has, it is of great importance that the salinity of soil is low enough to ensure the production of healthy wheat. Although, with around a fifth of agricultural soil being over-saline cripples the growth of wheat, advancements in genetics have found a way to overcome this obstacle.
Domesticated Durum Wheat
Recently, a group of scientists based in Australia have produced commercial-grade wheat with an increased tolerance for salt. This was achieved through crop breeding techniques involving agricultural durum wheat and wild einkorn wheat. The breeding succeeded in producing a strain of durum wheat that had the same salt-tolerant properties that einkorn wheat exhibited. (ScienceDaily, 2012)

The property of salt-tolerance within strains of wheat are derived from the gene known as TmHKT1;5-A,. This gene is known to increase tolerance to salt by restricting the absorption of salts into the cells of the wheat. The gene does this through the creation of proteins which are known to transport sodium away from the channels of which plants draw water from. (Munns, 2012)
Further testing and research done on this newly bred strain of durum wheat has shown that its salt-tolerant genes are functional and that it increases the yield of wheat within a saline soil by up approximately 25% when compared to regular durum wheat.  Although it is suitable to be grown within environments with high salt levels, this strain of salt-resistant durum produces an equal yield compared to regular durum within a typical environment. (Vincent, 2012)
It can clearly be seen that the development of this new strain of durum wheat is of great value and concern to the world and as such it should be utilised wherever possible. Organisations such as the Australian Durum Wheat Improvement Program are also backing the development and globalisation of this newfound strain of wheat in the hopes that within a few decades this may be a solution to starvation in many places across the world. (Dean, 2012)

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References:
• Dean, T., 2012, “Salt tolerant wheat could boost yields by 25%”, accessed 18th March 2012, http://www.lifescientist.com.au/article/418188/salt_tolerant_wheat_could_boost_yields_by_25_/

• Munns, R. et al, 2012, “Wheat grain yield on saline soils is improved by an ancestral Na+ transporter gene, accessed 18th March 2012, http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nbt.2120.html

• ScienceDaily, 2012, “World Breakthrough On Salt-Tolerant Wheat”, accessed 18th March 2012, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120311150717.htm

• Vincent, M., 2012, “Success for salt-resistant wheat crop”, accessed 18th March 2012, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-03-12/success-for-salt-resistent-wheat-crop/3883398

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