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Sea Wheatgrass Genome Project

Sea Wheatgrass

Dissecting the sea wheatgrass genome to transfer biotic stress resistance and abiotic stress tolerance into wheat.


  • PD: Li, Wanlong (South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD)
  • Co-PD: Xu, Steven S. (USDA-ARS, Fargo, ND)
  • Co-PD: Langham, Marie A. C. (South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD)
  • Co-PD: Ma, Qin (South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD)

Wheat production is facing numerous challenges from biotic and abiotic stresses. Alien gene transfer has been an effective approach for wheat germplasm enhancement. Sea wheatgrass (SWG) is a distant relative of wheat and a relatively untapped source for wheat improvement. We have identified high tolerance to waterlogging, manganese toxicity, salinity, heat and low nitrogen and resistance to wheat streak mosaic virus (temperature-insensitive), Fusarium head blight and sawflies (due to solid stem) in SWG and developed a large number of SWG-derived populations.

To facilitate simultaneous discovery and transfer of quantitative trait loci (QTL) for biotic stress resistance and abiotic stress tolerance more efficiently, we propose to dissect the SWG genome with three objectives:

  1. Develop a draft SWG genome assembly and genome-specific markers,
  2. Dissect SWG chromosomes into RobTs and localize agriculturally important genes and QTL, and
  3. Dissect SWG chromosome arms by homoeologous recombination and select sub-arm introgressions of biotic stress resistance and abiotic stress tolerance.

This project addresses the Program Area Priorities of A1141 and NIFA-Kansas Wheat Commission co-fund and will serve our long-term goal to broaden the wheat genetic basis and develop novel germplasm that will contribute to a more sustainable wheat industry.

We are a team of interdisciplinary expertise in cytogenetics, molecular genetics, genomics, bioinformatics, plant breeding and pathology, and have materials, technologies and resources in place as evidenced from strong preliminary results. We expect to deliver a complete package of novel germplasm and associated resources, tools and knowledge for breeding wheat tolerance to abiotic and biotic stress.