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Curtin researchers a step closer to disease resistant wheat

Media release

Curtin University researchers have developed a new technique that will help combat yellow spot – arguably Australia’s most costly wheat disease.

Yellow spot, known overseas as tan spot, causes national wheat crop losses of $212 million, plus control costs of $463 million per year.

With funding support from the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), Dr Caroline Moffat along with her team at Curtin’s Centre for Crop and Disease Management (CCDM) have ‘deleted’ an important gene in a strain of the yellow spot fungus.

Dr Moffat said the team removed the ToxA gene from the fungus, a gene which is responsible for a major toxin that the yellow spot pathogen secretes to kills wheat cells.

“This is a world-first achievement for yellow spot. The gene deletion capability is an extremely powerful new tool for yellow spot researchers and will accelerate the development of resistant varieties,” Dr Moffat said.

“The deletion now allows us to identify different toxins produced by the fungus which have so far been masked by ToxA. These other toxins may hold the key to a more robust source of resistance.”

To increase the research into yellow spot, the CCDM has also launched its ‘Stop the Spot’ campaign, calling for wheat growers to send in infected leaves for analysis.

Professor Mark Gibberd, Director of the CCDM, said a widespread sample collection across the country will provide frontline surveillance for shifts in virulence, pathogenicity mechanisms and biosecurity risks.

“We really hope growers get behind this campaign, so that Dr Moffat and her team can recover current strains of the fungus and are best placed to combat the disease and achieve breakthroughs, just like this one,” Professor Gibberd said.

By taking part in the campaign, growers will be the first to know about new research outcomes, with combined results to be distributed towards the end of the cropping season.

To get involved or for more information, growers can visit www.stopthespot.com.au and request sampling kits.