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Creating a natural defence to Yellow Rust

Agri-TechE

As a new form of fungal pathogen causing Yellow Rust ravaged UK wheat, Laura Bouvet investigated wheat resistance traits to beat back the invader. Laura successfully defended her work during her PhD viva and we couldn’t be happier for her.
As our Knowledge and Innovation Facilitator takes one step nearer to becoming a doctor, we review the work that got her to this point.

Laura Bouvet, Knowledge and Innovation Facilitator takes a step nearer to becoming a doctor.

Leaves streaked with bright yellow pustules are a sign that a wheat plant is suffering from yellow Rust. Spreading relatively unseen through the winter, this disease can emerge in the summer to cause considerable yield losses.
Wheat in the UK has been bred to protect itself against the pathogen, however these defences were ‘broken down’ in certain varieties when a new strain of yellow rust made its way into the country in 2011. As a result, the disease has proved more challenging for breeders and growers to manage.
To push back the disease, Laura realised that the genetic defences available in common wheat varieties needed to be upgraded. She set about looking for genes within an experimental population of direct relevance to breeders that could be used to identify genes that would defend the plant against yellow rust.
Within her work, Laura used the wheat MAGIC population (type of experimental population used by researchers to identify genes responsible for a trait) developed at NIAB to dissect resistance traits at the genetic level. In field trials, she discovered that some plants were more resistant than others and identified genes of interest that could be used by breeders, to aid the fight against yellow rust.
Laura did her PhD at NIAB and was affiliated to the University of Cambridge.
More about Yellow Rust
If you’d like to read more about the wider picture of Yellow Rust in the UK, and the work ongoing at NIAB, take a look at our Research Digest on that topic.
Laura Bouvet is our Knowledge and Innovation Facilitator, and has been working with Agri-TechE and AHDB since 2018.