Transferring diversity of goat grass to farmers’ fields through the development of synthetic hexaploid wheat
June 18, 2020 - Author: Hafid Aberkane, Thomas Payne, Masahiro Kishi, Melinda Smale, Ahmed Amri & Nelissa Jamora
Aberkane, H., Payne, T., Kishi, M., Smale, M., Amri, A., & Jamora, N. (2020). Transferring diversity of goat grass to farmers’ fields through the development of synthetic hexaploid wheat. Food Security, 1-17.
Genetic variation in wheat is needed to address global food security challenges, particularly as climates change. Crop wild relatives are unique reservoirs of useful alleles for crop improvement and are important components of genebank collections. We analyzed how the derivatives of ‘goat grass’ (Aegilops tauschii) have been used to widen the genetic base for wheat breeding and surveyed wheat breeders to elicit adoption estimates. Synthetic hexaploid wheat (SHW) is derived by crossing goat grass with durum wheat, serving as a bridge to transfer desirable traits into modern varieties of bread wheat. Our data show that wheat scientists used 629 unique accessions from 15 countries for pre-breeding, producing 1577 primary SHWs. These derivatives represented 21% of the germplasm distributed by the genebank of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center between 2000 and 2018. Over the period, more than 10,000 samples of SHW were sent to 110 institutions in 40 countries, with rising numbers of synthetic hexaploid-derived lines (SHDL) included in international nurseries. Lines were screened for major diseases of wheat. At least 86 varieties have been selected from SHDL and released in 20 countries. Survey estimates indicate the highest scale of adoption in southwest China and India, with 34% and 7% of reported wheat area, respectively. These varieties demonstrate resistance to pests and pathogens, high yield potential, good quality attributes, and suitability for biofortified wheat.