A new genetic discovery from an Ethiopian landrace has potential to significantly improve resistance in barley to powdery mildew.
For the first time researchers at the Centre for Crop and Disease Management (CCDM) have found a gene that is resistant to all forms of powdery mildew, without affecting yield. The discovery was made through genetic screening of exotic barley lines from other countries.
The CCDM’s lead researcher Simon Ellwood said currently, the best genetic resistance to powdery mildew in barley involves the mlo-11 mutation, which provides resistance to all known pathotypes of mildew. Unfortunately for barley growers mlo-11 also causes tissue damage, resulting in reduced photosynthetic capacity and reduced yields.
“We’ve found a promising new variant of mlo-11. This variant is structurally different and does not possess the known side-effects effects of mlo-11.”
Dr Ellwood said his team at the CCDM are now bulking up the seed for breeding companies. This seed will be used by breeding companies to include this resistance in new barley varieties. Although this new weapon won’t be available immediately, barley growers can expect better resistance to powdery mildew in their crop within the next few years.
The genetic screening process
For some time, Dr Ellwood’s team have been screening exotic barley lines from various countries, including China, Ethiopia, Uzbekistan and Turkey.
The pocess involves growing the plants and testing them for resistance after infecting them with powdery mildew. Simon said the key is to look for resistance other than major dominant resistance genes, which inevitably break down in the field.
Despite the process taking several years, this solution is helping fight a major economic challenge for the Australian barley industry, making the time well worth it.
“At a time when fungicide resistance is becoming a major problem for Australian grain growers, I’m delighted my team has found a genetic solution to preventing powdery mildew infection, meaning less need for fungicides, and allowing growers to become more sustainable and profitable,” said Dr Ellwood.
The Centre for Crop and Disease Management is a national research centre co-supported by Curtin University and the Grains Research and Development Corporation.
- Read the paper Tempered mlo broad-spectrum resistance to barley powdery mildew in an Ethiopian landrace
- Read the GRDC Barley Powdery Mildew fact sheet: grdc.com.au/GRDC-FS-PowderyMildewBarleyWheat
- Read CCDM’s blog: The holy grail for disease resistant barley