Making a Difference 2019-2020

The research described two enzymes in wheat that are especially sensitive to salt, and that appear to be the ‘weak link’ that leads to plant death in saline soils. The researchers also discovered wheat has a natural defence system that can bypass one of the sensitive enzymes, partially protecting against salt. Dr Taylor said that by understanding exactly how salt is damaging wheat plants, they can look for varieties with improved natural salt tolerance and introduce them into wheat breeding programs. SALINITY IS A GLOBAL AGRICULTURAL ISSUE, AND IN AUSTRALIA IT AFFECTS MORE THAN TWO MILLION HECTARES OF FARMLAND, HALF OF WHICH IS IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA. FARMERS IN AFFECTED AREAS SEE CROP YIELDS REDUCED BY MORE THAN A QUARTER.


Researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology led by The University of Western Australia (UWA) have discovered two enzymes that explain the sensitivity of wheat plants to salty soils. The findings could lead to advances that strengthen crops against salinity, an issue costing WA farmers more than $500 million a year. The research was led by an ARC Future Fellowship recipient, Dr Nicolas Taylor, from the UWA School of Molecular Sciences, with a team at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology and The National University of Malaysia. An improved understanding of the effects of salinity on crops at a molecular level is essential for developing more tolerant wheat varieties.

(Left to right) Dr Nicolas Taylor, Dr Richard Jacoby and Professor Harvey Millar. Credit: ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology.



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