11 December 1998

Oat gene dormancy hope

A GENE extracted from wild oats and inserted into wheat may help control seed dormancy and reduce the risk of grain sprouting in a wet season.

Plant breeders have found it difficult to select for seed dormancy while retaining the seeds ability to germinate and grow to produce a crop. Now genetic engineers think they may have found the answer – a gene extracted from wild oats which could influence the dormancy of wheat seed.

In collaboration with researchers at IACR Rothamsted, John Lenton of IACR Long Ashton has already managed to transfer the gene into the spring variety Cannon and the winter type Cadenza.

Seed is now being multiplied before testing work on this "proof of concept" project can begin. If successful, allowing dormancy to be manipulated, the wild oat gene could have a major impact on grain spouting and the quality of baking flours, Dr Lenton told a recent meeting of the Arable Research Institutes Association in Norwich.