Tag Archives: wheat

Recent research: Improved genetic markers for grain yield and quality

The genetic control of grain yield is very complex and involves many genes controlling processes such as growth and reproduction. Although introducing specific important agronomic traits has led to large advances in grain yield in the water-limited bread wheat production environment of southern Australia, recent yield improvements have been made through incremental genetic advances often without wheat breeders and researchers knowing the underlying physiological mechanisms. If the genetic/physiological basis was better understood, targeted breeding efforts could more rapidly improve traits driving grain yield in target environments. This study investigated the trait and genetic basis of grain yield and quality in a locally adapted wheat population.

The researchers used a doubled haploid population made from a cross between a relatively drought-tolerant breeders’ line and Kukri, a locally adapted variety less tolerant of drought. Experiments were performed in 16 environments over four seasons in southern Australia which fell into three distinctive rainfall patterns. Kernels per square metre was a large driver of grain yield and was further explained by kernels per spikelet, a measure of fertility, indicating these are key traits for improving yield in the target environment. The researchers found nine genetic loci for grain yield across the growing areas, individually accounting for between 3 and 18% of genetic variance within their respective growing areas. The gene variant (allele) from the relatively drought-tolerant breeders’ line increased grain yield, kernels per square metre and kernels per spikelet at most loci detected, particularly in the more heat stressed environments.

This work has provided a better understanding of the occurrences of these important loci in the local wheat breeding pool, helping wheat breeders maintain or improve these traits when designing cross-breeding programs. Three new loci associated with grain yield have potential for use in marker-assisted selection in breeding programs targeting improving grain yield in southern Australia and other similar climates.

Corresponding author: Dion Bennett
Organisations: Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics, Australian Grain Technologies
International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT)
Publication: Bennet, D., Izanloo, A., Reynolds, M., Kuchel, H., Langridge, P. And Schnurbusch, T. (2012) Genetic dissection of grain yield and physical grain quality in bread wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) under water-limited environments. Theoretical and applied genetics, 125:255-271.
Link: doi: 10.1007/s00122-012-1831-9

“Recent research” is a series of short, regular posts highlighting recent research papers from the Waite Campus.

“Rathjen’s Revenge” Recognising Prof Tony Rathjen’s contribution to agriculture

Professor Tony Rathjen

“Rathjen’s Revenge”

Recognising Professor Tony Rathjen’s contribution to agriculture

The Waite Research Institute and the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine at the University of Adelaide are hosting a retrospective and celebration of Professor Tony Rathjen’s career to recognise Tony’s contribution to the Australian wheat breeding, farming and related industries, his research and his recent elevation to Professor status.

Tony has been instrumental in establishing a strong durum industry in South Australia and released more than 20 wheat varieties in his career.

His first major bread-wheat release was Warigal in the late 1970s. During the 1980s he worked on soft wheats, releasing Molineaux, the first cereal-cyst nematode wheat. Yitpi, released in the late 1990s, had the combination of CCN resistance and boron tolerance and was very popular in areas such as the Mallee. Tony then moved into durum following a trip to Italy. Tamaroi was the first variety released from the Waite, followed by Kalka in 2003 and Tjilkuri in 2010. Varieties from Tony’s program are still being released.

Tony has been a lecturer since starting at the University of Adelaide in 1965 and recently incorporated primary production tours for students into the course to provide an understanding of industry and the environment. Tony has also set up a foundation with royalties from Yitpi to encourage and promote research and education in the fields of crop science, particularly in relation to the wheat industry in southern Australia; and social science in linguistics of Australian languages and studies of the cultures of Australian Aborigines, particularly in relation to land usage.

All collegues, current and former students, farmers and others who wish to acknowledge Tony’s “retirement” are welcome to attend.

The event will be held on Friday 14th September 2012 at the Waite Campus.

At 1.00pm in the Charles Hawker Conference Centre, seminar presentations will address challenges confronting today’s agricultural research, crop breeding and industries and provide insight to the future, as well as acknowledge the contributions, personality and successes of Tony over his 47-year long career.  Presenters on the day are Roger Leigh, Chris Preston, Dave Maschmedt, Ian McClelland, Andy Barr, and Mike Brooks.  Tony will be giving the final presentation – “Rathjen’s Revenge: The Rebuttal”.

At 4.30 pm, following the seminars, a late afternoon social event will be held at the Waite’s Lirra Lirra Cafe. For catering purposes, please register for this free event at http://rathjensrevenge.eventbrite.com/

South Australian Tall Poppies – Dr Kerry Wilkinson and Dr Matt Gilliham


Congratulations to Drs Kerry Wilkinson and Matt Gilliham on being named 2012 South Australian Young Tall Poppies at a reception in Government House on 22 August. They were among eight young South Australian scientists to receive awards this year.

The Tall Poppy campaign was established in 1998 by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science to promote public awareness of Australia’s intellectual achievements. These prestigious awards uniquely acknowledge the recipients’ research achievements alongside their capacity and commitment to communicate science and its significance to the broader community.

Dr Matt Gilliham’s research focuses on how wheat and grapevines might better tolerate salinity and how the nutritional quality of crop plants can be improved. Matt’s work into increasing salinity tolerance and crop yield will contribute to increased production in Australia and other countries with salty soil, and in doing so help combat food insecurity. This year Matt has also been awarded the Viticulture & Oenology 2012 Science and Innovation Award for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry sponsored by the Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation and was recently awarded a fellowship by the GO8 Australia-China Young Researchers Exchange Program. Matt is a Senior Research Fellow within the ARC Centre of Excellence for Plant Energy Biology at the Waite Campus. You can follow Matt on Twitter (@IonPlants) for updates on his work.

Dr Kerry Wilkinson’s research interests concern the compounds present in grapes and wine which affect aroma and flavour. This includes efforts to better understand the effect of bushfire smoke on grape and wine quality. In 2009 after the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria, local winemakers found that some wines made from smoke-exposed grapes smelled and tasted like smoked bacon, cold campfires and Band-Aids. The estimated cost to the Victorian wine industry due to ‘smoke taint’ is more than $300 million. Kerry’s research has identified compounds responsible for ‘smoke taint’ and methods for removing them, a valuable development for Australia’s third biggest export industry. Kerry is a Senior Lecturer in Oenology at the Waite Campus.

Both Matt and Kerry are participants in the Waite Research Institute’s Research Leadership Development Program.

Matt received his award and congratulations from His Excellency Rear Admiral Kevin Scarce at the reception at Government House. Kerry is currently attending a conference in Philadelphia and Prof Eileen Scott accepted the award on her behalf.

We wish them well in the coming year as they continue their outreach to schools and the broader community as part of the Tall Poppy Campaign to promote and encourage an interest and engagement in science.