The MAGIC populations were developed to overcame the constraints of existing wheat quality studies
A MAGIC approach to improved wheat quality
CSIRO Food Futures Flagship scientists are using MAGIC, an innovative technique to increase the speed and efficiency of wheat breeding.
13 May 2011 | Updated 3 May 2012
The development of superior high quality wheat varieties is a main focus of scientists from CSIRO's Food Futures Flagship. Wheat is not only Australia's most important grain crop but one of the most important sources of food in the world.
CSIRO researchers in conjunction with breeders, industry and wheat quality researchers are targeting key quality attributes including desirable bread baking qualites, flour with better water absorption, high milling yields and higher protein content.
The problems with these key attributes, as is the case with many genetic traits of economic and biological interest in wheat, is that they are controlled by multiple genes.
'MAGIC will have a direct impact on the production of farms as well as the ability to change the way scientists identify the genes that control characteristics such as quality and disease resistance.'
Dr Bruce Lee, Director CSIRO Food Futures Flagship
Traditional wheat genetic studies (which only involve two parent varieties), have limited ability to define the genes determining key traits. In some cases they produce results which may reflect the parent varieties but are not applicable to use in a commercial scale.
Now for the first time, CSIRO scientists are using an innovative technique to overcome the inherent constraints of existing approaches to identifying desirable plant qualities.
The new approach, known as MAGIC - Multi-parent Advanced Generation Inter-Cross, allows the identification of genes controlling quantitative traits such as loaf volume, by crossing different combinations of multiple parents. The results of these crosses are plants that have a genome which is a mosaic of their multiple parents.
MAGIC has multiple advantages compared with existing approaches, as it permits a more precise identification of genes that are responsible for wheat traits such as superior bread baking quality. Even geneswith minor effects can be pin-pointed.
Standard crosses (between two parents) have little recombination and show a poor correlation between the diversity found in the DNA (genetic diversity) and the diversity of the observable characteristics displayed by the plant (phenotypic diversity).
Because the MAGIC populations have a large number of individuals, and are the product of numerous generations of inter-crossing the original founders or parent plants, scientists are able to more accurately identify the genes underlying important traits.
There are three main advantages of the MAGIC approach compared to existing approaches:
- MAGIC enables scientists to more precisely identify the specific regions of the genome controlling key traits.
- MAGIC incorporates a large proportion of the genetic diversity within elite wheat varieties from around the world.
- MAGIC enables the discovery of the best combinations of genes for important traits.
CSIRO has developed two MAGIC populations. The first is a four parent population and includes lines adapted to all breeding regions in Australia, with genetic diversity covering approximately 80 per cent of Australian material. The second population is an eight parent population cand includes cultivars from six countries (Australia, Canada, China, Israel, United States and Mexico (CIMMYT).
As the multiple parents originate from geographically diverse regions from Australia and around the world, the MAGIC have incrorporated genetic factors useful for adaptation for a range of environments. This makes these populations an important resource for studying relationships between the genetic characteristics of the plant and the interaction with a range of environments.
Wheat quality will be investigated utilising the MAGIC wheat populations developed by CSIRO’s Food Futures Flagship in collaboration with the West Australian Department of Agriculture and Food, Murdoch University and with support from the Grains Research and Development Corporation.
Dr Bruce Lee, Director of CSIRO's Food Futures Flagship said, 'MAGIC has the potential to increase the speed and efficiency of breeding and will have a direct impact on the production of farms as well as the ability to change the way scientists identify the genes that control characteristics such as quality and disease resistance.'
MAGIC will enhance our understanding of the underlying genetics behind wheat quality which is crucial for the improvement of crops and to help ensure Australia's continued success in the highly competitive global wheat markets.
In addition, this work will also provide Australian wheat breeders with more accurate DNA markers for the genes responsible for wheat quality. Equally important, they can also be applied across a wide range of characteristics important in wheat production such as seedling establishment, pre-harvest sprouting and disease resistance.
Learn more about CSIRO's Food Futures Flagship.