Salt tolerant wheat for Australia’s environment

Photograph of a wheat field stretching out to the horizon against a blue sky (image supplied by researchers)

A National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy project has found a gene associated with helping wheat tolerate salt.

Wheat plays a major role in food security across the globe, but is only moderately tolerant of salt, posing a significant challenge for Australia’s agriculture industry.

A large proportion of Australia’s wheat belt is affected by salt to some degree. High salt levels can lead to reduced wheat development including low growth rates and leaf death. This can have devastating impacts for famers and the agriculture industry.

A project between the government funded National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) program, Australian Plant Phenomics Facility (APPF), the University of Adelaide and the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics has found a gene (known as genetic loci) associated with helping wheat tolerate salt with less impact on the crop’s yields, or damage to the actual plant - genes which have previously been very hard to pinpoint.


Associate Professors Bettina Berger (APPF), Stuart Roy (University of Adelaide) and Dr Rhiannon Schilling (South Australian Research and Development Institute), along with a team of fellow scientists, used latest genome sequencing technology to help identify the salinity tolerance of Australian wheat, creating positive real-life outcomes for our farmers and the agriculture industry.

“Our project used the latest International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC) sequencing data to shortlist the potential candidate genes”, says Dr Rhiannon Schilling.

“Our greenhouse work showed a positive impact on yield in different field trials, over several years at several locations.” said Associate Professor Stuart Roy.

This research provides farmers with important insights into ideal crop conditions to help minimise damage to their crops. It is anticipated that these findings will assist with the breeding of new salt tolerant wheat varieties, to find out more visit the APPF website.

This article was published as part of National Science Week 2021.

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Correct at time of publication.