Updated: Feb 18, 2020
In our September newsletter we announced the introduction of an elite winter wheat variety, RGT Wolverine, with resistance to barley yellow dwarf virus that will offer farmers an alternative to chemical control for the first time.
In this article we take a look at how this remarkable breakthrough came about.
Twenty years ago, researchers at Plant Breeding International Cambridge started work on incorporating BYDV resistance into UK wheat germplasm.
One source, the resistance gene Bdv2 originating from a distant relative of wheat, Thinopyrum intermedium, proved the most interesting.
However, due to the absence of modern molecular marker technology and effective screening methods, the introduction of the trait into truly competitive germplasm for the UK market proved technically very challenging.
Work continued, but at a fundamental experimental level because it was perceived there was little demand for the trait at the time, not least because insecticide seed treatments offered cheap and reliable control.
“We knew the trait was viable from that early work, along with other research carried out at a similar time by Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO),” says Richard Summers, head of cereal breeding and research at RAGT Seeds.
“The CSIRO work did succeed in the commercialisation of BYDV-resistant wheat, one of the very few breeding programmes in the world to have done so to this day.”
CSIRO did this by translocating a genetic segment from Thinopyrum containing Bdv2 onto a wheat chromosome, via a research line known as TC14.