BRENDON CANT brendon at iinet.net.au
Mon Apr 23 14:28:49 CEST 2007

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·         New seed testing technology to detect presence of wheat streak
mosaic virus

·         Rapid progress being made towards a practical test for growers


An innovative research project supported by growers and the Australian
Government through the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC)
has completed the important first stage in developing a test to detect the
presence of wheat streak mosaic virus (WSMV) in wheat seeds.


The discovery of WSMV in Australia resulted in a major setback for wheat
breeding programs and since then it has been a GRDC priority to develop
tools and techniques for detecting and managing the virus and its carrier,
the wheat curl mite.


Dr Roger Jones, principal plant virologist at the Department of Agriculture
and Food Western Australia (DAFWA), said the ability to test for the
presence of WSMV in seeds would be a key weapon in growers’ disease
management strategies.


“Wheat streak mosaic virus was widely distributed across the WA wheat belt
in 2006, and could pose a significant threat in 2007 if conditions favour
the build-up of the disease,” Dr Jones said.  “The virus is transmitted at
low levels through the embryo of wheat seeds and planting infected seed
stocks introduces foci of infection into the crop.


“Growers need to know if WSMV is present before sowing, because if infected
seed stocks are sown and the infected seeds germinate, the wheat curl mite
can transfer the virus from WSMV-infected seedlings to healthy plants and
eventually cause high levels of infection across the entire crop”. 


Dr Jones said the GRDC research project has already developed an interim
test for presence of WSMV in seed coats, and work has now begun on
developing a seed embryo test.


“We have made a substantial leap towards WSMV detection in grain seeds,“ he


“We have developed a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test that detects the
presence of WSMV in the coat of the seed, but this is an interim test
because it only identifies if the crop from which the seed came was exposed
to the virus.  It does not identify the actual level of seed transmission
through embryo infection to seedlings. 


“We are currently working to develop systems for PCR testing on the embryo
of the seed, which will provide this information.”


Having been responsible for developing the seed coat test, Dr Geoffrey
Dwyer, senior research officer for molecular diagnostics at DAFWA, has been
given the task of streamlining embryo-testing procedures.


“Embryo testing shows true virus transmission, because if infected seed
embryos germinate they give rise to an infected plant,” Dr Dwyer said.  “A
test to detect WSMV in the embryo of the seed will give a true reflection of
what the initial virus levels will be in the resulting crop, which has
practical benefits for growers.”


Dr Dwyer said development of the seed test began in May last year, and the
rapid progress of the research had been very pleasing.


“In a short space of time we’ve developed the seed coat test,” he said. 
“Our research is now pushing towards embryo testing, and we hope to develop
a quantitative test this year so growers will be given the percent of WSMV
infected seeds in the sample.”






·         For more information contact Dr Roger Jones on (08) 9368 3269 or
Dr Geoff Dwyer on (08) 9368 3677.

·         www.grdc.com.au

Brendon Cant & Associates
Public Relations & Marketing 
Suite 5
4 Gugeri St
Claremont WA 6010
Tel 08 9384 1122


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