USDA scientists find DNA markers to aid wheat breeding

by Chrystal Shannon
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U.S. Agricultural Research Service scientists at Kansas State University at Manhattan have found molecular markers that can speed up wheat breeding to improve quality and disease resistance traits.

"Using molecular (or DNA) markers may shorten the task of improving insect and disease resistance while maintaining good yield and quality characteristics," said plant geneticist Gina L. Brown-Guedira in the ARS Plant Science and Entomology Research Unit in Manhattan, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

These tools may reduce the time it takes breeders to move quality and resistance traits into breeding populations of wheat using conventional breeding techniques, according to "Shortcuts to Disease-Resistant Wheats," published in the January issue of Agricultural Research magazine. Currently, it can take as long as 10 or more years to develop new wheat varieties, the article said.

The ARS said the long-term goal of Brown-Guedira and molecular biologist John P. Fellers was to focus on finding markers that would ultimately be used to incorporate longer-lasting resistance to wheat diseases, such as leaf rust, Karnal bunt fungus and fusarium head scab.