Net blotch-bust­ing re­search

Aims to map and mark re­sis­tant genes for breed­ers to in­tro­duce

Central and North Burnett Times - - LIFE | FENCE POST - Alex Treacy alex.treacy@cnbtimes.com.au

IT IS a sight any bar­ley grower dreads.

There, on the droop­ing green leaves, un­mis­take­able—the brown streaks or small cir­cu­lar dots which in­di­cate the pres­ence of net or spot types of net blotch, a fun­gal dis­ease caused by the Pyrenophor­a teres pathogen.

And ac­cord­ing to a 2010 re­port, if there were no con­trol mea­sures in place, yield losses would be up to 30 per cent and cost grow­ers $300 mil­lion, so this is a fun­gus not to sneezed at.

How­ever, re­search be­ing con­ducted by the Cen­tre for Crop Dis­ease Man­age­ment in West­ern Aus­tralia holds out hope that within a few years ge­netic mark­ers can be laid down for new genes or com­bi­na­tions of genes re­sis­tant to the fun­gal dis­ease which breed­ers can then in­tro­duce into their lines.

Cen­tre se­nior re­search of­fi­cer Dr Nola D’Souza said the team was at about the half­way point of their re­search, which has been test­ing lines from in­ter­na­tional cul­ti­vars that have shown field re­sis­tance to net blotch against a group of eight do­mes­tic iso­lates.

The re­search is hop­ing to find “durable” re­sis­tance across the life cy­cle of the plant, char­ac­terised by a com­bi­na­tion of genes, as op­posed to a sin­gle gene, which the fun­gus can adapt to a lot eas­ier.

If these re­sis­tant genes can be found, mapped and marked, breed­ers can do a DNA anal­y­sis on the line as op­posed to field tri­als, where suc­cess may not be known for sev­eral grow­ing sea­sons.

“It helps with re­sources, it’s a way of get­ting re­sults faster,” Mrs D’Souza said.

“It’s much bet­ter than look­ing for a nee­dle in a haystack.”

She said in­tro­duc­ing ge­netic re­sis­tance to net blotch into bar­ley lines is prefer­able to the cur­rent method of treat­ing the dis­ease with fungi­cides, as pathogens tend to build re­sis­tance over time to the fungi­cides.

The re­search has been helped by a process known as dou­bled hap­loid breed­ing.

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