BALTIMORE, MD-Eduard Akhunov received the Calvin Sperling Memorial Biodiversity Lectureship award from Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) at the 2022 ASA-CSSA-SSS International Annual Meeting on November 8, 2022. Eduard gave a lecture titled, “The Quest to Find Adaptive Diversity in Wild Relatives to Improve Wheat.”
The Quest to Find Adaptive Diversity in Wild Relatives to Improve Wheat
Bread wheat is a product of hybridization between domesticated tetraploid wheat and a wild diploid relative. The loss of genetic diversity accompanying domestication and polyploidization was compensated by extensive gene flow between wild relatives and wheat. The analysis of the whole-genome diversity maps recently developed for wheat and its wild relatives allowed for accurate mapping of introgressiion. Introgression was often associated with regions showing evidence of improvement selection and adaptation to climatic factors suggestive of its adaptive role. Historic introgression from wild relatives explains substantial proportion of phenotypic variance for many agronomic traits in wheat. These results provided first evidence that gene flow from wild relative played an important role in shaping the agronomic phenotypes in modern wheat and likely contributed to adaptation in new environments. By applying environmental scans to georeferenced collections of wild relatives, we show that it is feasible to identify adaptive alleles for improving wheat. By assessing wheat population with introgression from wild relatives, we demonstrate that introgression carrying climate-associated alleles could improve yield potential under irrigated and non-irrigated conditions. The development of effective approaches for prioritizing climate-adaptive wild wheat-relative diversity for incorporation into the breeding pipelines has potential to significantly accelerate creation of climate-resilient wheat.
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