COBRA stakeholder meeting on bunt diseases in wheat
Almuth Elise Muellner1*, Heinrich Grausgruber2, Hermann Buerstmayr1
2 Department of Crop Sciences, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Konrad Lorenz Straße 24, 3430 TULLN, Austria
* Corresponding author: Almuth Elise MUELLNER, email@example.com
During the last two decades, bunt diseases have re-emerged in organic winter wheat throughout Europe and have turned into a serious problem for organic farming. Whereas the predominantly seed-borne disease common bunt (Tilletia tritici, T. laevis) can be managed by careful seed hygiene, control of the soil-borne dwarf bunt (T. controversa) is more challenging. Currently, no bunt resistant and adapted varieties are available for organic farming. COBRA-Austria is part of the ERA-NET project COBRA: Coordinating Organic plant BReeding Activities (www.cobra-div.eu) and aims to develop molecular markers for application in bunt resistance breeding. The 65th Plant Breeders Conference in Raumberg-Gumpenstein (24-26 November 2014) dedicated a complete session of talks to bunt diseases (you can see all presentations in this PDF) and also staged the second COBRA stakeholder meeting on bunt diseases in wheat. This stakeholder meeting served as an informal platform for around 30 participants – including researchers, conventional and organic plant breeders, and representatives of the agricultural extension service – to discuss the topic in depth. COBRA partners from Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, and Germany were present at the meeting. The main topics discussed at the COBRA stakeholder meeting on bunt diseases in wheat included the following:
Raising awareness – There is a lack of public awareness, not only among farmers, regarding the problem of bunt in organic wheat in the German speaking parts of Europe. Raising public awareness is necessary to tackle the problem and relies on agricultural extension services as well as researchers communicating facts and new findings in appropriate ways to a broader audience.
Organic production of seeds
Producers of farm-saved seeds (farmers) need to be integrated into the oficial seed multiplication system; otherwise the problem of bunt will increase.
The production of certiied seeds for organic production will be even more demanding in future, especially since increasing evidence points towards common bunt not being an exclusively seed-borne disease.
Molecular tools for disease detection and disease differentiation
Improved molecular tools for the detection and differentiation of bunt diseases at an early stage of plant development are urgently needed. Also, reliable tools to test for the viability of spores and distinguish bunt races at a molecular level would be helpful.
Spectrum of bunt races in Europe
There is a need to systematically monitor bunt races (and effective resistance genes) across Europe.
Host resistance is the most important factor for control of bunt in organic winter wheat. The development of molecular markers for bunt resistance would speed up the development of bunt resistant varieties. The use of variety mixtures was mentioned as potentially supportive strategy in disease management.
Raising public awareness together with the development of resistant varieties for organic agriculture were identiied as the most important factors to tackle the complex problem of bunt diseases in organic wheat production.
The project COBRA Austria is funded within the ERA-Net project Core Organic 2 by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management (project no. 100898).
Below you can find a photo gallery depicting the common bunt and dwarf bunt trials developed by Almuth Elise Müllner (the responsible PhD student for the work on wheat bunt). These experiments included some lines of Saatzucht-Donau.