High sodium wheat for disease resistance?

In the course of ongoing salinity tolerance research, we observed variation for leaf and stem rust resistance that seemed to be related to a novel trait for sodium accumulation in bread wheat. 

Normally, levels of sodium in the leaves of bread wheat range between 100-500 ppm, but our novel genotype accumulates up to 100-fold more than this, with no consequences for biomass or grain yield. Could elevated leaf sodium offer resistance to fungal infection? In this project, the student will develop near-isogenic lines for the leaf sodium trait and initiate disease screening with this material to determine if leaf sodium contributes in any way to disease resistance in wheat. Pairs of near-isogenic lines (NILs) are essentially genetically identical to each other, except for a target region controlling a trait of interest. NILs are a very effective tool for investigating the effects of a trait in the absence of confounding background genetic differences.

Our project would suit a student with an interest in the application of molecular genetics to Australian agriculture. We are a team comprised of staff from both the University and from SARDI, enabling the student to be exposed to a diverse range of researchers and activities undertaken at Waite. 


  • Dr Tara Garrard (@TaraGarrard) is a mycologist by training. She currently leads the Cereal Pathology group at the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), which is responsible for monitoring disease in South Australian cereal crops and screening for disease resistance for breeders. 
  • Dr Yusuf Genc has is a Research Scientist with SARDI and an Affiliate Senior Lecturer with the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine. Yusuf has a long history of salinity tolerance research in cereals and in the development of bread wheat varieties tolerant to salinity.
  • Dr Julie Hayes is a Research Associate with the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine. Julie has a background in molecular genetics and physiology of crop and pasture plants, particularly relating to plant nutrition and nutritional stress. 

Further information

This project may be eligible for a $5000 student scholarship. Please contact the project supervisors for details and to express your interest.

Tagged in Honours projects - Agricultural science, Honours projects - Plant science