Committee ponders new grain varieties

Matthew Weaver/Capital Press Washington State Crop Improvement Association Manager Jerry Robinson consults with Washington State University spring wheat breeder Michael Pumphrey during the cereal variety release committee meeting March 21 in Pullman, Wash.

Director of WSU's research center

to make final call

By MATTHEW WEAVER

Capital Press

PULLMAN, Wash. -- A new soft white spring wheat and a hard red spring wheat are among the varieties being considered for advancement in Washington's breeding program.

A committee of university and industry representatives made recommendations March 21 on several new grain varieties developed by Washington State University and the USDA Agricultural Research Service.

The committee made recommendations on five varieties. Those recommendations were not made public.

Committee chairman Rich Koenig, chairman of the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, said the recommendations would go to Ralph Cavalieri, associate dean and director of the Agricultural Research Center, who would make a final decision in four to six weeks.

WSU Extension Agronomist Stephen Guy said in a summary the hard red spring wheat variety has potential for commercial production. The high level of stripe rust resistance it shows is lacking in most other hard red spring varieties.

The committee voted 5 against, 4 in favor of publicly releasing a barley variety, tentatively called Elise. Instead, the committee voted to consider allowing a private company to bid on the variety and sell it in a specific market.

Washington Grain Commission member Dana Herron said the number of barley acres is declining in the state, with only a few companies promoting the crop as a cattle feed.

If the recommendation is approved, such companies would have the opportunity to access a public WSU variety, with the university sending out a request for proposals and then negotiating a license.

Otherwise, the variety likely would have died with the 5-4 vote.

"At least some of the growers' investment into this barley gets recaptured and a small income stream comes back into the barley program," Herron said.

The committee expects similar licensing discussions to arise in the future, particularly for niche varieties and specific target markets.

Budget cuts at the state level may prompt such discussions, Herron said. If the commission winds up funding a greater percentage of breeding programs at the university, there will need to be more income streams, he said.

Other universities use 100 percent royalties, Herron said.

"We need to look at that," he said. "It will be in the growers' best interest -- that's what drives my decision."

Herron said Cavalieri would make a recommendation to the commission.

He said the varieties developed had more strengths than weaknesses.

Craig Morris, director of the Western Wheat Quality Laboratory, foresees domestic interest by Kraft-Nabisco in the soft white spring wheat developed by WSU's spring wheat breeding program.

"(It) will, I think, be very well received because of its end-use quality," he said. "I'm always quite pleased to see growers have the opportunity to raise more wheat, bushel-wise, as well as reduce risk through biotic stresses."

New varieties at a glance

ARS960277L (Amber)

Type: Soft white winter wheat

Developed by: USDA Agricultural Research Service breeder Kim Campbell

Use: Intermediate to high rainfall zones

Designed to replace: Tubbs06 and complement Xerpha

Positive: Resistant to stripe rust

Negative: Does not have gene for strawbreaker foot rot resistance

Committee voted: Permission for final release

ARS970075-3C (Chrystal)

Type: Soft white winter club wheat

Developed by: Campbell

Use: Intermediate to high rainfall zones

Designed to complement: Chukar and Cara, replace Coda

Positive: Good stripe rust resistance, footrot resistance and good quality

Negative: Some question about improvement over existing varieties, cookie diameter less than existing club check varieties

Committee voted: Permission for final release

WA008074

Type: Hard red spring wheat

Developed by: WSU spring wheat breeding program, consisting of former breeder Kim Kidwell and current breeder Michael Pumphrey

Use: Intermediate rainfall zones

Positives: Resistant to stripe rust, Hessian fly; good height, test weight and yield potential

Negative: Average protein content, but similar to widely adapted varieties Hank and Jefferson

Committee voted: Whether to increase breeder seed

WA008124

Type: Soft white spring wheat

Developed by: WSU spring wheat breeding program

Use: Spring wheat production areas, yield potential

Developed to replace: Potential to replace Louise, Nick, Alpowa and Wakanz

Positives: Stripe rust resistances, superior milling and baking variety

Negatives: Susceptible to Hessian fly, late maturity in some areas

Committee voted: Whether to increase breeder seed

04WA-113.22 (Elise)

Type: Two-row spring feed barley

Developed by: Steve Ullrich

Use: Dryland production conditions in Eastern Washington

Developed to replace: Baronesse

Positives: Yields higher than leading cultivars Baronesse and Bob, equal to or less than Champion; would provide a public Washington variety for barley growers; improved lodging

Negatives: Low disease resistance, but disease pressure for barley is low; concerns about stem rust

Committee voted: Whether to release

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