Arable News

  • Written by: Farmers Guide
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New Syngenta wheat breeding facility


Bread-making winter wheat Gallant offers a number of benefits to growers, says Samantha Brooke, including early maturity, which can help to protect grain quality. She says the new breeding facility aims to continue the Syngenta heritage of bringing varieties like this to market.

 A new, state-of-the-art plant breeding support facility opened by Syngenta at its Jealotts Hill research and development site in Berkshire is already producing new lines of wheat.

The new 2 million glasshouse facility, announced earlier this year, has been created to fit with the key aim of bringing better varieties to growers faster, says Syngenta portfolio manager for genetics for Europe North, Samantha Brooke. It complements Syngentas established wheat breeding centre in Cambridgeshire, she points out.

By using a doubled-haploid technique to support traditional breeding, the facility aims to continue the Syngenta heritage of bringing varieties produced by this technique to market, explains Mrs Brooke, for example bread-making winter wheat variety, Gallant.
Gallant was a key variety developed using this technique that we brought to market five years ago. Since its launch it has gone on to achieve end market acceptance among leading millers. But more than that, it also offers multiple benefits to growers.
In tests it has produced Hagbergs consistently above the 250 threshold often demanded by millers. And its early maturity can be a real help in protecting quality in seasons where the latter part of the summer turns wet.
Allied to that, Gallant can reach key growth stages for inputs such as fertiliser and fungicides earlier than other varieties. This can be an enormous help to growers to help ease workload bottlenecks at busy times of the year.
With all these benefits in a single variety developed using the doubled-haploid technique, its no wonder we are excited by the expansion of our capacity in this area, she adds.
Looking ahead, Mrs Brooke says another example of a variety developed using this technique is Syngentas new candidate winter wheat variety, Cubanita. This could be a Group 2 variety, she points out. Indeed it has the highest treated yield figure of the potential breadmaking varieties on the HGCA table of winter wheat candidate varieties 2013. It also has an outstanding Western region yield and, like Gallant, has a high Hagberg and stiff straw. Other major benefits for the UK grower are Cubanitas suitability for early drilling and a very high Specific Weight which still remained high in the challenging season last year.
According to Syngenta head of cell biology for Europe, Africa and the Middle East, Paul Drayton, specialist glasshouse and controlled environment rooms at the new Jealotts Hill facility will help scientists to create perfect wheat growing conditions, supporting and accelerating traditional breeding programmes.
When developing a new variety, Mr Drayton says plant breeders start by crossing two parent wheat plants together, with the aim of producing offspring with desired traits. However, he says this also produces variability in resulting plants, which traditionally has had to be removed by repeated selfing or self-pollination of these plants over multiple generations, before they reach the required level of uniformity, which can take several years.
The doubled-haploid technique still uses plants from the first cross created by traditional plant breeding, but speeds up the production of uniform offspring, explains Mr Drayton, reducing it to just one year.
Rather than go through repeated selfing, the breeder can do the first cross and produce a doubled-haploid and go straight to field trials, so can save two to three years.
Hand-in-hand with this, he says a further technique being used to speed up variety selection allows scientists to identify whether newly-created crosses contain desired traits by checking for markers for them in tissue samples taken while still at a young growth stage rather than waiting to see whether these traits are manifested in mature plants.
In this way, he says only those plants containing the desired characteristics need to be retained for later testing in the field. This is an exciting new facility and represents another major investment in the site by Syngenta, continues Mr Drayton. The scientists who work here will help to speed up the process of bringing new crop varieties to the market, supporting farmers here in the UK and beyond.



  • Written by: Farmers Guide
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