New germplasm to develop more productive varieties with enhanced resistance to nematodes, pachymetra root rot and smut : final report 2011/344
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Sugarcane industries around the world were transformed in the early 1900s when Dutch plant breeders working in Indonesia, and Indian breeders, working independently, developed sugarcane varieties derived from the wild relative called Saccharum spontaneum. Crossing sugarcane with wild relatives, and the subsequent backcrossing of progeny to sugarcane to regain sufficiently high sugar content for commercial production is known as introgression breeding. The wild relative added higher yield, extra vigour, longer ratoons and disease resistance to the original sugarcane, S. officinarum. Most modern sugarcane varieties can be traced back to a very small number of these early crosses with the wild Saccharum spontaneum. In Asia and the Pacific region, there is a vast source of variation within wild sugarcane relatives that could potentially provide commercial sugarcane with new genes to improve yield, stress resistance, ratooning ability and disease resistance. One wild sugarcane relative that was recently successfully crossed with sugarcane in China, Erianthus arundinaceus, is highly drought tolerant, almost immune to pachymetra root rot and is highly resistant to nematodes. SRA and CSIRO researchers have worked closely in this project to build on earlier projects to introduce new traits into the Australian sugarcane breeding population from wild relatives of sugarcane. The project screened the available introgression clones for yield, pachymetra root rot, lesion nematode, root-knot nematode and smut resistance and made new crosses to further improve the introgression clones. One clone derived from Erianthus, KQ08-1040, performed better than the average of the standards for yield in final assessment trials in the Central regions. This clone was also one of the best parent clones in progeny assessment trials. KQ08-1040 will be further assessed as a potential commercial variety and could be the first sugarcane variety anywhere in the world to have Erianthus as a progenitor. A number of other introgression clones from crosses with Saccharum spontaneum, Saccharum robustum and Erianthus procerus performed well as clones or as parents in yield trials in the Burdekin, Central, South and NSW regions. The clones are currently being tested in the Herbert and North regions.