How to catch the big fish in the genetic ocean?

Common bunt is a seed-borne fungal disease caused by Tilletia tritici & T. laevis. Organic farms have a heavy cross to bear when their fields are infected, as common bunt reduces grain yield and quality, even at a very low incidence. The unpleasant fishy odour of bunt balls can transform a wheat field swaying in the wind into a sea of rotten fish. Systemic fungicides are not allowed in organic system, so resistant cultivars are considered the most effective management strategy.

Identifying and introgressing resistance to common bunt in winter wheat is challenging and time-consuming. The University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) embarked on this journey of illuminating the effects of QTL and resistance genes (BT-genes) on different wheat chromosomes as well as their interplay in crosses between elite varieties and exotic resistance donors.

Trade-offs between disease resistance from non-adapted sources and good agronomic performance are a common problem. The ECOBREED project combines marker- and genomics-assisted selection to lead breeding programs towards a successful selection strategy.