New Wheat From Idaho Resists Emerging Fungal Disease

Threat is greatest in southern Idaho.

Published on: Jun 7, 2012

University of Idaho wheat breeders believe a new release, UI Stone, will provide solid resistance to the fungal disease Fusarium head blight, an emerging threat in the south state's  wheat and barley plantings.

The first work that led to UI Stone by UI College of Agricultural and Life Sciences wheat breeders focused on developing a new Pacific Northwest soft white spring wheat with superior yields  and market qualities.

Wheat breeder Jianli Chen, based at UI's Aberdeen Research and Extension Center, screened potential new wheat varieties for resistance to the fungal disease using new molecular biology methods.

New Wheat From Idaho Resists Emerging Fungal Disease
New Wheat From Idaho Resists Emerging Fungal Disease

Next year, the new variety will be available to producers. Flour quality from UI
Stone  exceeds or equal that from other varieties including Alturas, Alpowa and UI Pettit.

Fusarium head blight, also known as scab, can devastate wheat crops. A toxin produced by the fungus can make the grain unmarketable. Outbreaks in southern Idaho 30 years ago cost producers half their crops. Signs in 2009 and 2011 show that scab may again become an emerging threat, says Juliet Marshall, a UI cereals pathologist.

An increase in the amount of corn grown in southern Idaho probably led to the recurrence of the disease, she says. Growers can reduce the threat  by separating the rotation of wheat and barley from corn crops in the same fields with others such as sugar beets, she advises.

UI Stone offers wheat growers three main advantages, according to Chen:

n  Good resistance to Fusarium head blight; the first UI cultivar released with that benefit. UI Stone shows moderate resistance to stripe rust, although variety trials showed variable results.

n  Superior yields in both irrigated and non-irrigated plantings. Average yields reached more than 120 bushels in irrigated fields in the south state. Non-irrigated results averaged about 60 bushels in northern Idaho and adjacent areas of Oregon and Washington.

n  UI Stone offers what researchers consider to be "excellent" end-use  quality in cookies and noodles.