|Scientists at the University of Adelaide's School of Agriculture in
Australia have crossed a popular, commercial variety of wheat with an
ancient species, producing a hardy, high-yielding plant that is tolerant
of salty soil. The researchers hope the new strain will help address
food shortages in arid and semi-arid places where farmers struggle with
high salinity in the soil.
The researchers used a gene believed to be responsible for controlling
the salt content in plants and that was isolated more than 10 years ago
from an ancient wheat variety. The gene makes a protein that is present
in the roots of wheat and it helps block salt from travelling up the
plant, Gilliham said in a telephone interview. Salt lowers yields and
eventually kills the plant.
The researchers grew the new, improved wheat variety in soil with high
salt content and found that it produced yields up to 25% more than
strains without the ancient gene.