Drought-adaptive traits derived from wheat wild relatives and landraces uri icon


  • Exotic parents are being used to increase allelic diversity in bread wheat breeding through (i) interspecific hybridization of the ancestral genomes to produce so-called synthetic derived (SYN-DER) wheat, and (ii) crossing with landrace accessions, originating in abiotically stressed environments, that have become isolated from mainstream gene pools. Evaluation of the inherent genetic diversity encompassed by drought-adapted landraces compared with checks using DNA fingerprinting confirmed that some landraces were not only distant from checks but also showed significant diversity among each other. Improvement in performance of SYN-DER lines compared with recurrent parents was not associated with a larger overall investment in root dry weight, but rather an increased partitioning of root mass to deeper soil profiles (between 60 cm and 120 cm) and increased ability to extract moisture from those depths. The best Mexican landraces showed superior ability in terms of water extraction from soil depth, as well as increased concentration of soluble carbohydrates in the stem shortly after anthesis. Although it can be argued that inferring theoretical yield gains from the over-expression of any of these traits is questionable, since compensatory mechanisms may be at work, the fact remains that mechanistic or genetic linkages among physiological traits remain largely un-established. In the meantime, trait information is being used to make strategic crosses based on the theoretical combination of useful stress-adaptive traits with the possibility of realizing additive gene action in selected progeny. Candidates for crossing with elite check cultivars include landraces identified that showed relatively high biomass under drought combined with favourable expression of physiological traits such as stem carbohydrates, water extraction characteristics, and transpiration efficiency.

publication date

  • 2007
  • 2007
  • 2006