Amber Hafeez

Postgraduate Researcher Designing Future Wheat

Through her research, Amber hopes to find more sources of resistance to the foliar wheat disease Septoria tritici Blotch, caused by the fungal pathogen Zymoseptoria tritici.

Septoria tritici Blotch causes significant yield losses in temperate regions worldwide. Although it accounts for the greatest cereal fungicide applications in Europe annually, fungicides have proved largely ineffective since the pathogen can rapidly evolve resistance to these chemicals.

If this disease is to be controlled in a sustainable way, it is essential to have as many sources of genetic resistance in our wheat as possible.

Wild species contain multitudes of unexploited genetic variation, without the genetic bottlenecks and strong selection pressures imposed upon modern, monoculture-grown crop varieties.

The D-genome progenitor of bread wheat, Aegilops tauschii, has presented a catalogue of disease resistance responses that could readily be incorporated into wheat.

Many Septoria tritici Blotch resistance loci have been mapped to the D-genome chromosomes of wheat and Ae. tauschii accessions that are highly resistant or immune to Septoria tritici Blotch appear to be widespread; yet this interaction is scarcely studied and therefore little understood.

Furthermore, with only one STB resistance gene cloned to date, a move to contemporary approaches without the need for the arduous generation of biparental or mutant populations is requisite for accelerating this field.

Amber’s aim is to identify variation in the response of an Ae. tauschii diversity panel to isolates of Z. tritici.

She will use this phenotype data as the input for a genome-wide association analysis using whole-genome shotgun data (Open Wild Wheat Consortium), which will allow her to identify candidate genes for resistance to Septoria tritici Blotch.