Research roundup

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Improving wheat yield and FHB resistance
Kyra Lightburn
New cultivar development will improve disease resistance and yield for Ontario wheat producers, say researchers at the University of Guelph.

Dr. Ljiljana (Lily) Tamburic-Ilincic, Department of Plant Agriculture, has been leading a project at the University of Guelph-Ridgetown aimed at breeding wheat cultivars more resistant to fusarium head blight (FHB) a devastating fungal disease. FHB slows kernel development, and in the case of some species, produces toxic chemicals, known as mycotoxins, that can harm humans and animals that ingest it.

So far, she and her team have developed two successful cultivars. One is named UGRC C2-5 which has just been registered with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and shows very good resistance to fusarium head blight. The other, named Marker (UGRC C5-116), which is licensed to Bramhill Seeds, shows moderate resistance.

“After years of selection ‘in house’ as well as testing across Ontario in registration and performance trials, we are very happy to see, coming from our program, new promising winter wheat lines for bread and pastry,” says Tamburic-Ilincic.

Previously, the project produced two other winter wheat varieties named UGRC Ring and OAC Flight that are now marketed by Elite Seeds. Both produce exceptional yield, but have slightly less resistance to fusarium head blight than Marker and UGRC C2-5.

Fusarium head blight is a significant economic concern across Canada and globally. It reduces both the quality and yield of a number of crops such as barley, oats, wheat, and rye.

Increasing resistance is the best approach to minimize losses for wheat growers with the added benefit of reducing reliance on fungicides to prevent damage, says Tamburic-Ilincic.

“Our goal is to help farmers and the wheat industry make higher profits using the most diseases resistant, high yielding, and good quality wheat,” she says.

The project involves researcher collaborations from the Guelph and Ridgetown Campuses, Dr. Anita Brule-Babel, Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Manitoba and Dr. Thomas Miedaner, Universitaet Hohenheim State Plant Breeding Institute in Stuttgart, Germany.

Funding for this research is provided by Western Grain Research Foundation, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), Grain Farmers of Ontario, and SeCan under the National Wheat Improvement Program. •

Research Roundup is provided by members of SPARK (Students Promoting Awareness of Research Knowledge) at the University of Guelph’s Office of Research. For more information, contact a SPARK writer at 519-824-4120, ext. 52667.

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