BREAD made from WA wheat could be getting tastier thanks to the CSIRO-developed Multi-parent Advanced Generation Inter-Cross (MAGIC) breeding technique.
MAGIC allows the identification of genes controlling quantitative traits such as water absorption in flour by crossing different combinations of multiple parents.
“In a traditional approach, you have two parents for every trait,” says CSIRO Research Scientist Dr Crispin Howitt.
“You have one line that is good and one not so good and you map to find areas controlling traits. But you then have to validate the areas identified across other lines.”
These standard crosses don’t do a good job of tapping into the diversity found in the DNA or the phenotypic diversity of the plant—how genes express themselves in relation to environmental conditions.
“With MAGIC, we took a different approach,” says Dr Howitt.
“We took four Australian parent lines and inter-crossed them so every line has a contribution from the four parts. We mixed the genome up much more.”
The result is plants that have a genome that is a mosaic of their multiple parents, covering about 80 percent of Australian wheat’s genetic material.
This enhanced approach has allowed for a faster and more precise identification of genes, including those responsible for wheat traits such as superior baking quality, higher protein content, disease resistance and increased milling yield.
CSIRO then took MAGIC further with eight parents, comprised of three Australian lines and five from international competitors. The hope was to find lines that might be better used in Australian wheat.
The project is now growing in the fields of WA and the eastern states in a five-year partnership involving CSIRO, Murdoch University, the West Australian Department of Agriculture and Food and George Weston Foods with support from the Grains Research and Development Corporation.
“This project uses MAGIC to look specifically at bread making for export,” says Dr Howitt.
“WA is the country’s major wheat exporter, so this will be very beneficial. We can use the information to make better wheats and produce a higher quality export product.”
Ultimately, MAGIC will improve growing profitability while improving Australian wheat’s reputation on the international market.
While Australian wheat is viewed as good for the production of noodles abroad, it is generally not used as extensively in bread production.
According to Dr Bruce Lee, Director of CSIRO's Food Futures Flagship, “MAGIC has the potential to increase the speed and efficiency of breeding and this will have a direct impact on farm production.”