The RES-WHEAT project: identification of resistance genes in durum wheat for an healthier and more sustainable agriculture
The recent emergence of new widely virulent and aggressive strains of rusts (particularly stripe and stem rust) is threatening Italian durum wheat (Triticum turgidum L. var. durum) production, especially under the trend of higher temperature and humidity. A big effort has been undertaken to explore the genetic variability for resistance to these fungal pathogens and discovering novel resistance genes. In particular, a wide set of tetraploid wheat lines was genotyped with several thousands of SNP markers and used for association mapping. This large collection consisted of a group of durum wheat cultivars, produced from the beginning of the last century up to now, a collection of wild emmer wheats (T. dicoccoides), and lines belonging to other wild and domesticated tetraploid subspecies, as a large untapped source of genetic diversity. In a tight cooperation with the University of Minnesota, this collection was evaluated for reaction to several races of stem and stripe rust pathogens in both controlled greenhouse and field conditions. Among the genotypes belonging to the collection are parents of segregating populations which were used for the validation of mapping results. Novel resistance loci were identified, that can be incorporated into new durum varieties through breeding programs. The QTLs found in this study, together with those available in literature, were projected to the recently sequenced durum wheat genome in order to define more precisely the chromosome regions and candidate genes involved in resistance to rusts. Lines which were resistant to multiple races of rust pathogens were also found among both T. dicoccoides and durum wheat cultivars as a source of resistance genes, whose cloning will be undertaken based on the results here obtained.
This study was supported by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, with the special grant RES-WHEAT.