Guest Author: Ian Dundas on responsible gene sharing

John Bakum
Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The latest news on Ug99 is not good. Pathotypes virulent on Sr31, Sr24 and many other genes, have reached South Africa.Given the tendency for inter-continental west to east wind currents, Australia is now in the firing line of inoculum from South Africa for years to come. It’s game-on as far as we are concerned! Researchers in South Africa are also interested in our genes but also concerned about freedom to operate. They now have been sent Sr26, SrR, Sr39 and a new gene Sr2S#3. The pressing issue from Australia’s viewpoint is the minimization of production of stem rust inoculum and reduction of its spread from our west. I am not about to let history judge me as one who obstructed the appropriate and effective deployment of resistance genes when we had the chance to protect our wheat crops. No-one else should dare to do so either and risk ‘despised outcast’ status. We must expect that all rust resistance genes eventually lose complete effectiveness. Let us use these genes to full effect while we can.

The issue of international sharing of our lines has been discussed at length at meetings of the Australian Cereal Rust Control Program (ACRCP) and considered at the highest levels by our funding body Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), which answers to the Federal Minister for Agriculture. I have been instructed by GRDC to fully collaborate in the distribution of resistance genes around the World, and I shall comply. Nobody ‘owns’ naturally occurring rust resistance genes; they are for all humanity. An overriding issue with deployment of stem rust resistance genes is that we researchers and our host Institutions have an obligation to act for the public good and this surely encompasses the sharing of rust resistance genes. The ACRCP and GRDC is hoping that Australia can continue, in the future, to be the fortunate recipients of other countries’ rust resistance genes, as it has in the past. The Sr26 recombinants, have been sent freely, so far, to Turkey, Iran, ICARDA, CIMMYT, and South Africa as well as distribution to the USA and Canada.

Ian Dundas is a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of Adelaide

Note: this entry first appeared on the RustGenes listserv. The purpose of the RustGenes listserv is to promote international discussion on the use and stewardship of resistance genes for cereal rusts, with an emphasis on wheat stem rust. This is a controlled listserv, so please send a message to Bob Bowden (rbowden@ksu.edu) or Erick DeWof (dewolf1@ksu.edu) if you wish to add you name to the list. Include your full name, affliliation, and email address.