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A new approach to reduce the risk of take-all disease


The soil dwelling fungus ‘take-all’ inflicts devastating stress to the roots of cereals crops worldwide and is a major disease problem in UK wheat crops.

However, recent field trial data from Rothamsted Research, an institute of the BBSRC, has demonstrated that farmers could control this devastating disease by selecting wheat cultivars that reduce take-all build up in the soil when grown as a first wheat.

Wheat is an important staple crop worth 1.6 Billion a year to the UK economy alone. This work funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the HGCA will help farmers to increase yields, combating global food security and contributing to UK economic growth.

Take-all disease, caused by the fungus, Gaeumannomyces graminis var. tritici, reduces grain yield and quality and results in an increased amount of residual applied nitrogen fertiliser left in the soil post-harvest. Despite the use of chemical, biological and cultural control methods the take-all fungus is still one of the most difficult pathogens of wheat to control. The risk of take-all infection in second and third wheat crops is directly linked to the amount of fungus remaining in the soil after the first wheat is harvested.

The Rothamsted Research study, published in Plant Pathology, has demonstrated that wheat cultivars differ in their ability to build-up the take-all fungus.

Growing a low building cultivar, such as Cadenza, as a first wheat crop can be used to manipulate take-all inoculum levels in the soil resulting in better yields from the second and third wheat crops. Yield increases of up to 2 tonnes per hectare in 2nd wheats have been observed.

Professor Kim Hammond-Kosack said, “This low take-all inoculum build-up (LowTAB) trait was previously unknown to wheat breeders.  We are hopeful that this discovery can be commercially exploited because our genetic analyses have indicated two chromosomal locations which may be responsible for the control of the LowTAB trait.” In summary, this novel discovery made within the WGIN project potentially provides the first genetic solution to the control of take-all.

Vanessa McMillan, a PhD student at Rothamsted sponsored by HGCA and BBSRC, who has been investigating the phenomenon of inoculum build-up under different wheat cultivars, said, “initial results suggest this trait is also present in some of the current National and HGCA Recommended cultivar list.”

A new project to exploit this knowledge will track this trait in current and future wheat cultivars and should help farmers and farm advisors to reduce the risk of take-all by selecting a Low TAB first wheat cultivar when deciding to grow consecutive wheat crops. This project will be funded by the Technology Strategy Board and BBSRC as part of a new initiative called ‘New Approaches to Crop Protection’.

Further field and molecular work on this trait is ongoing within the Defra funded Wheat Genetic Improvement Network (WGIN;

This study is published as ‘Evidence that wheat cultivars differ in their ability to build up inoculum of the take-all fungus, Gaeumannomyces graminis var. tritici, under a first wheat crop’ by V. E. McMillan, K. E. Hammond-Kosack and R. J. Gutteridge. Plant Pathology, DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-3059.2010.02375.x

For more information please see:


The Wheat Genetic Improvement Network (WGIN) is funded by Defra. It aims to improve the environmental footprint of farming through crop genetics and targeted traits analysis. Please see

Rothamsted Research

Rothamsted Research is based in Hertfordshire and is one of the largest agricultural research institutes in the country. The mission of Rothamsted Research is to be recognised internationally as a primary source of first-class scientific research and new knowledge that addresses stakeholder requirements for innovative policies, products and practices to enhance the economic, environmental and societal value of agricultural land. The Applied Crop Science department is based at Broom’s Barn, Higham, Bury St. Edmunds. The North Wyke site is located near Okehampton in Devon and focuses on grassland research.

For further information, please contact the Rothamsted Research Press Office. Dr Adlia de Paula (Tel: +44 (0) 1582 763 133 ext 2260 or email


HGCA is the cereals division of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB). HGCA aims to deliver a world class arable industry through independence, innovation and investment. It funds research, knowledge transfer, marketing, export and promotional activities for the cereals and oilseeds sector in the UK. Find out more at

As part of its investment in arable research, HGCA currently funds 24 PhD projects. For more information on these, or other HGCA-funded research projects please contact the HGCA Communications team on 024 7647 8756 or email


The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around 470M in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors. BBSRC carries out its mission by funding internationally competitive research, providing training in the biosciences, fostering opportunities for knowledge transfer and innovation and promoting interaction with the public and other stakeholders on issues of scientific interest in universities, centres and institutes.

For more information see

About the Technology Strategy Board

The Technology Strategy Board is a business-led government body which works to create economic growth by ensuring that the UK is a global leader in innovation.

Sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Technology Strategy Board brings together business, research and the public sector, supporting and accelerating the development of innovative products and services to meet market needs, tackle major societal challenges and help build the future economy. For more information please visit

The new project referred to above will be funded by the Technology Strategy Board and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) as part of a new initiative called ‘New Approaches to Crop Protection’. The project is entitled ‘Protecting Second Wheat through the Reduction of Take-All Inoculum Build Up’, acronym LowTAB, done in collaboration with three UK based wheat breeding companies, aims to identify and track the presence of this newly discovered trait in the pedigrees of the current elite wheat breeding germplasm pool used by the UK breeders (

About the Biosciences KTN

We would like to acknowledge the guidance we received from the Biosciences KTN through the novel process of preparing an application to Technology Strategy Board.

The Biosciences Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) is the Technology Strategy Board funded KTN working in the Plant, Animal, Food and Industrial Biotechnology sectors.  The Biosciences KTN operate at the interface between the UK science- base, industry, funders and investors to facilitate new collaborations between the private- and public sectors for mutual benefit. The Biosciences KTN drive bioscience inspired innovation towards commercial outputs, helping UK industry profit and grow from new technology-enabled products and processes. For more information please visit

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