Plant salinity tolerance

In 2010 we have received $500K funding from GRDC for a project aimed to quantify a relative contribution of several key physiological mechanisms conferring plant salinity tolerance.

Over the past decades, breeding for salinity tolerance both in Australia and worldwide was essentially empirically-driven and relied mainly on plant phenotyping under field or glasshouse conditions. However, given the complexity and plethora of physiological and genetics mechanisms conferring salinity tolerance in plants, the practical outcomes of such approaches are disappointingly low.

It has become evident that there is an urgent need to quantify a specific contribution of each of these diverse (and often controversial) mechanisms towards salinity tolerance. This project is designed to fulfil this aim and provide the first comprehensive assessment of the relative contributions of several key physiological mechanisms contributing towards plant salinity tolerance, namely sodium exclusion from uptake, potassium retention, vacuolar sequestration of sodium, control of xylem loading, and osmotic tolerance.

A large number of barley and wheat genotypes will be ranked for each of the above traits and then recommended to breeders as “tolerance genes donors” allowing the “pyramiding” of beneficial physiological traits in order to create truly salt tolerant genotypes. This project involves TIA barley breeders (A/Prof Meixue Zhou) and is complementary to the phenotyping work conducted at ACPFG by Prof Tester’s group.