Murdoch University has received more than $1million from the Grains Research Development Corporation (GRDC) and BioPlatforms Australia to continue its research into developing drought-resistant wheat varieties.
The research boost is part of the Australian contribution to the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC), an international effort focused on identifying wheat genes that contribute to the survival of wheat across a broad range of global environments.
Professor Rudi Appels from the Centre of Comparative Genomics at Murdoch is co-chair of the IWGSC. He said the project in Australia, which is expected to be completed in three to five years, will offer wheat breeders new lines for breeding with improved tolerance to drought and frost, two persistent problems that have plagued Western Australia for decades.
“While Australia has recently experienced some disastrous flooding on the east coast, drought has always been a problem for this country, especially in Western Australia, and it requires a long term solution,” he said.
Hollie Webster, a PhD student at Murdoch University who is identifying molecular markers to help plant breeders identify varieties that contain the required genes, said climate change had affected the livelihood of many West Australian farmers.
“Having grown up in a farming family in the WA northern wheatbelt I have witnessed first hand the devastating impact climate change is having on the capacity of farmers to sustainably grow grain crops,” she said.
“As an agricultural scientist I am passionately committed to contributing to local solutions for this issue, through research to improve the genetic capabilities of wheat to grow in West Australian low rainfall arid conditions.”
The discovery of drought tolerant genes and their molecular markers would provide the opportunity to cross breed different varieties and further strengthen the resilience of the wheat industry.