Grains of 80 accessions of nine species of wild Triticum and Aegilops along with 15 semi-dwarf cultivars of bread and durum wheat grown over 2 years at Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee, were analyzed for grain iron and zinc content. The bread and durum cultivars had very low content and little variability for both of these micronutrients. The related non-progenitor wild species with S, U and M genomes showed up to 3–4 folds higher iron and zinc content in their grains as compared to bread and durum wheat. For confirmation, two Ae. kotschyi Boiss. accessions were analyzed after ashing and were found to have more than 30% higher grain ash content than the wheat cultivars containing more than 75% higher iron and 60% higher zinc than that of wheat. There were highly significant differences for iron and zinc contents among various cultivars and wild relatives over both the years with very high broad sense heritability. There was a significantly high positive correlation between flag leaf iron and grain iron (r = 0.82) and flag leaf zinc and grain zinc (r = 0.92) content of the selected donors suggesting that the leaf analysis could be used for early selection for high iron and zinc content. ‘Chinese Spring’ (Ph I ) was used for inducing homoeologous chromosome pairing between Aegilops and wheat genomes and transferring these useful traits from the wild species to the elite wheat cultivars. A majority of the interspecific hybrids had higher leaf iron and zinc content than their wheat parents and equivalent or higher content than their Aegilops parents suggesting that the parental Aegilops donors possess a more efficient system for uptake and translocation of the micronutrients which could ultimately be utilized for wheat grain biofortification. Partially fertile to sterile BC1 derivatives with variable chromosomes of Aegilops species had also higher leaf iron and zinc content confirming the possibility of transfer of required variability. Some of the fertile BC1F3 and BC2F2 derivatives had as high grain ash and grain ash iron and zinc content as that of the donor Aegilops parent. Further work on backcrossing, selfing, selection of fertile derivatives, leaf and grain analyses for iron and zinc for developing biofortified bread and durum wheat cultivars is in progress.
Rawat, N.; Tiwari, V.K.; Singh, N.; Randhawa, G.S.; Singh, K.; Chhuneja, P.; Dhaliwal, H.S. Evaluation and utilization of Aegilops and wild Triticum species for enhancing iron and zinc content in wheat. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution (2009) 56 (1) 53-64. [DOI: 10.1007/s10722-008-9344-8]