Drought Forward Genetics

Tolerance to drought is a quantitative trait, with a complex phenotype, often confounded by plant phenology. Our research program for increasing drought tolerance of wheat tackle the problem in a multi-disciplinary approach, considering interaction between multiple stresses and plant phenology, and integrating the physiological dissection of drought tolerance traits and the genetic and genomics tools. Physiological analysis, population development and phenotyping and the various ‘omics technologies are integrated to support a gene discovery path.
Fleury et al. J. Exp. Bot. 2010

We focus on the Southern Australia environment, with a Mediterranean-type of drought. Wheat production relies on rainfall during the growing season when precipitation decreases with the rise of temperature during spring. The availability of water is cyclic with a succession of precipitation and drought periods from anthesis to grain-filling stages. The drought is combined with a cyclic heat stress between rainfall events.

Elite germplasm adapted to South Australian environment were used as parental lines for constructing mapping populations. We extensively described their morpho-physiological and molecular mechanisms of tolerance by using transcriptomics, metabolomics and proteomics platforms. This information is used to develop models for QTL analysis and positional cloning by providing functional data to select candidate genes for QTL. A further component in the process of defining target regions and candidates for drought tolerance in wheat is the use of the sequenced cereal genomes. The strong conservation of gene order between the grasses means that the rice and Brachypodium genomes provide a valuable resource in developing markers for fine mapping in a target region and for identifying candidate genes for the QTL.


Funded Projects

  • ARC International Science Linkage Project linked to EU-FP7 project DROPS: DROught-tolerant yielding PlantS. Click here for further inforamtion.
  • NSW Ag Genomics



External collaborations

Australian Grain Technology (South Australia), NSW Industry and Investment, Barley Breeding Group-University of Adelaide (South Australia), INRA Clermont-Ferrand (France), INRA Montpellier (France), CIMMYT (Mexico), ICARDA (Syria), University of Bologna (Italy)

Key publications

Izanloo A, Condon AG, Langridge P, Tester M, Schnurbusch T. 2008. Different mechanisms of adaptation to cyclic water stress in two South Australian bread wheat cultivars. Journal of Experimental Botany 59, 3327-3346.
Fleury D, Jefferies S, Kuchel H, Langridge P. 2010. Genetic and genomic tools to improve drought tolerance in wheat. Journal of Experimental Botany 61, 3211-3222.


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