Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, (BARC) is developing mutants lines of wheat and getting ready for testing in the fields of Kenya in Africa, to check if these will be resistant to the virulent strain of wheat stem rust 'Ug99'.
If BARC succeeds in obtaining resistant mutants which resist attack of the virulent stem rust Ug99, it will be a significant development as wheat scientists all over the world are looking for resistance to this disease.
The evolving pathogen Ug99 may pose even greater threat to global wheat production than the original Ug99 (identified first in Uganda in 1999), according to Food and Agricultural Organisation.
The virulent fungus race has moved to Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Yemen and heading towards South Asia and recently reached Iran.
"The new mutants will be developed by treating the seeds of popular varieties of wheat with radiations to induce genetic variation and these may include the required resistance mutation," Dr. S G Bhagwat, Head, Mutation Breeding Section of BARC told PTI.
About the status of research on the resistant variety, Bhagwat said, the mutation often expresses in the second generation after radiation treatment.
"Currently, the mutagenised lines are undergoing generation advancement. Since the pathogen does not occur in India, some selected variants will be tested in Kenya where the disease is prevalent."