CSIRO Chairman’s Medal 2017 – Cereal rust disease prevention
Awarded to our agriculture and food rust researchers for contributing to global food security by protecting cereal crops against rust diseases. We worked with the Grains Research and Development Corporation on this pioneering research.
[Images move through of the different types of rust disease on wheat stems and leaves, an aerial view of a tractor ploughing and then Steve Jeffries talking to the camera and text appears: Steve Jeffries, GRDC]
Steve Jeffries: We have three major rust diseases in Australia, stem, stripe, leaf rust and we estimate that in the order of half a billion dollars of losses can occur if these rust diseases are not controlled.
[Image changes to show Dr Evans Lagudah talking to the camera and text appears: Dr Evans Lagudah, CSIRO]
Dr Evans Lagudah: So, there have been two basic types of rust resistance genes in wheat. There’s the seedling resistance genes and then there’s the adult plant resistance genes.
[Image changes to show a researcher looking at a pot of wheat seedlings and then the image changes to show Jeff Ellis looking at a flower and then the image changes to show rust on a wheat stalk]
To try and understand a bit more about the seedling resistance genes the CSIRO team led by Jeff Ellis used the flax model system that led to the identification of those genes.
[Image changes to show Dr Evans Lagudah talking to the camera]
So, using some really elegant genetics Jeff Ellis and his team were able to isolate the first rust resistance genes.
[Image changes to show an animation of a rust particle attaching to a wheat stem and then a rust coloured line shooting out from the rust particle and making its way into a hole in the wheat stem]
It turns out that they provided the molecular signatures to be able to understand or find most of the rust resistance genes that occur in the seedling group and using the modern tools that we have now in wheat genetics we’ve been able to identify the genes that are involved in these adult plant resistances.
[Animation image model rotations in an anticlockwise direction to show a 3-D view of the structure inside the wheat stem and then the image changes to show Dr Evans Lagudah talking to the camera]
An output of the research we’re doing is to be able to provide molecular tags for each of the resistance genes and this I call the molecular markers and we’ve been able to do that for about 20 different resistance genes.
[Images move through of wheat grains in petri dishes, hands picking up wheat grains with tweezers, researchers looking through microscopes and then Dr Evans Lagudah talking to the camera]
The impact of having these molecular tags is that because breeders are constantly breeding for a wide range of characters, trying to improve yield and grain quality, since 1988 we’ve had continuous support what was then the Wheat Research Council which later on became the Grains Research and Development Corporation.
[Image changes to show a photo of the CSIRO team and then the image changes to show Dr Evans Lagudah drawing up liquid into a syringe and then putting it into a small plastic receptacle]
Steve Jeffries: The CSIRO team have been global leaders in the identification of the genetic control of rust resistance genes which in turn have led to the development of tools that plant breeders can use to effectively and accurately select for resistance genes in a cost effective, accurate way that doesn’t require the generation of an epidemic.
[Image changes to show Dr Evans Lagudah and a female looking at heads of wheat and then the image changes to show Dr Evans Lagudah talking to the camera]
Dr Evans Lagudah: And as a result of this we are now in the position to be able to provide rust resistance genotypes and markers, not only for the Australian market but also for the international market.
[Image changes to show a harvester moving through a crop]
It’s important that we not only protect the wheat that we have in Australia but to be able to also help protect what goes outside of Australia.
[Music plays and CSIRO logo and text appears: Australia’s innovation catalyst]