By JOHN O'CONNELL
ABERDEEN, Idaho -- European winter wheat varieties have produced some of the best yields in recent University of Idaho field trials, and UI Extension cereals pathologist Juliet Marshall anticipates foreign seed will become increasingly important in the Pacific Northwest grain industry.
However, Marshall warns European varieties weren't bred with local weather conditions and crop diseases in mind, and it will be important to evaluate them carefully, especially under southern Idaho's dryland conditions. In some cases, Marshall said more rigorous chemical programs will be necessary.
"I think bringing in some of these higher quality bread wheats from Europe is a good way for us to improve genetics of our own crop, but also to give growers other options. The only issue is management for the disease pressure," Marshall said. "They have a completely different disease spectrum."
Marshall said Europe has high moisture, and therefore breeds wheat varieties to have good resistance to many foliar diseases that also occur here.
"I'm worried a little more about the soilborne disease they don't have in Europe," she said.
For example, Europe has a different strain of cephalosporium stripe, a vascular disease caused by a soilborne fungus. On Idaho dryland farms, she worries dwarf bunt disease could be rampant in European varieties.
Keldin, a European hard red winter wheat imported to the U.S. by WestBred, finished second in total yield in Marshall's 2012 trials, producing 152 bushels per acre under irrigation with excellent test weight. Marshall is wary about planting Keldin on dry land, though it yielded well in her trials without irrigation, due to the threat of dwarf bunt disease in dry conditions.
"The Europeans don't have dwarf bunt, so they don't develop any dwarf-bunt resistant varieties," Marshall said.
The Limagrain hard red winter wheat Alpigo, which produced low test weights in Marshall's trials, is another strong yielder under irrigation that could face dwarf bunt problems on dryland.
Limagrain's hard red winter variety Azimut, a low yielder in Idaho trials, has performed well near Walla Walla, Wash., where there's enough rainfall to avoid dwarf bunt problems.
Norwest 553, a hard red winter wheat jointly released by Oregon State University and a division of Limagrain, was developed in Europe's milder climate, and though it has good disease resistance, Marshall believes the combination of dryland stress and cold winters makes it susceptible to winter kill in Idaho.
Cathy Wilson, director of research collaboration with the Idaho Wheat Commission, said U.S. programs bred the top varieties by acreage in her 2013 winter wheat survey, but she expects to see European varieties -- including Art Deco, Azimut and Colonia -- heavily reported on the 2014 and 2015 variety surveys.
"I do think we will see one or two direct releases of European varieties become significant varieties in our markets but probably only for a short time," Wilson said. "They will be eclipsed by the new double haploid derived varieties developed from germplam which integrated the strengths of the European material with those of the PNW lines.