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Apr 15, 2010

Australia Develops High Yielding Salt Tolerant GM Wheat

A field of salt tolerant durum wheat
grown in northern New South Wales
as part of a CSIRO field trial.
Photo courtesy of CSIRO
On 15 April 2010 Australia's CSIRO issued a press release announcing that its researchers had developed a salt-tolerant wheat variety that yields "25 percent more grain than the parent variety in saline soils."

According to Dr. Richard James, CSIRO scientist, "[b]y planting the new salt tolerant durum wheats in different levels of salinity and comparing their yield with other durum wheats, we’ve demonstrated an impressive 25 per cent yield advantage under saline soil conditions."

Field trials in saline soils in northern New South Wales demonstrated that durum wheat varieties with new salt tolerant genes produced higher yields that the other varieties.

The new salt-tolerant durum wheat varieties were achieved by introducing two salt tolerance genes (Nax1 and Nax2) taken from the old wheat relative, Triticum monococcum.  Project leader Dr. Rana Munns explains that "[b]oth genes work by excluding sodium, which is potentially toxic, from the leaves by limiting its passage from the roots to the shoots.

The new varieties were achieved by using traditional hybridization methods and the use of precise gene-engineering that allowed researchers to use molecular markers to splice in the two specific Nax1 and Nax2 genes.

"Salinity, a major environmental issue affecting much of Australia’s prime wheat-growing areas, often prevents farmers from growing durum wheat."  CSIRO research has been done in collaboration with the NSW Department of Primary Industries, the University of Adelaide and the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics. It is supported by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

For more see: "CSIRO develops highest yielding salt tolerant wheat," CSIRO Press Release 10/47, South Victoria, Australia, 15 April 2010

About Margaret

CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
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