Researchers say new varieties offer strong advantages

By MATTHEW WEAVER

Capital Press

SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. -- Improved stripe rust resistance and better yields are among the traits that breeding programs have in store for Pacific Northwest wheat farmers in the years ahead.

Representatives of Oregon State University, Limagrain and Monsanto's WestBred unit provided updates on their wheat-breeding programs during the Washington State Crop Improvement Association's annual joint meeting with the Washington-North Idaho Seed Association Nov. 14 in Spokane Valley.

New OSU wheat breeder Bob Zemetra said he has three lines of two-gene Clearfield wheat in development. The varieties are undergoing further testing. If yield performance and quality are acceptable, they would likely be available in 2015, Zemetra said.

He asked attendees to inform him of odd disease responses in OSU Clearfield lines.

"If you're seeing an odd disease response, stripe rust when you shouldn't have stripe rust, let us know," he said, noting that hearing about issues six months later is no help. "We want to figure out if there's something going on we need to address."

Jim Peterson, Limagrain's vice president of research, said the Pacific Northwest station in Waitsburg, Wash., will be leased from Northwest Grain Growers, with a primary field site in Walla Walla, Wash. Breeder Jean-Bruno Beaufume is expected to arrive next week.

There's not a lot from Limagrain on the U.S. market yet, but Peterson is pleased with the access to the international company's global supply of materials. Varieties are moving into regional and state trials in the Pacific Northwest and other Limagrain stations for evaluation.

French soft white wheat variety Artdeco has "incredible" yield potential when protected from stripe rust, Peterson said.

There are more than 50 test sites set up throughout the country, with four breeding programs and material poised for the marketplace.

"Which is very exciting for being in this only a year and a half," Peterson said.

WestBred's new soft white wheat wheat, WB Junction, offers improved foliar disease resistance, yield and test weight compared to WB528, with broader adaptability, with improved fits into Oregon and north of Interstate 90 in Washington, breeding lead Dale Clark said.

New soft white wheat WB1070CL, the last one-gene Clearfield variety, is short with lodging resistance and stripe rust tolerance, early maturity and high test weight. It's targeted for higher moisture areas and then some dryer areas.

New hard red wheat WB Arrowhead has good yields, virtually no stripe rust and high test weight and protein. Even though it's a little taller, Clark said, it stands very well. It also demonstrated tolerance to snow mold and better adaptation in Oregon, providing a better fit than some previous varieties.

The company produced foundation seed for the new varieties in the past year and are available as certified seed purchases next year.

The WestBred hard red spring wheat variety Fuzion didn't fare as well in 2011, with yields coming in 15 bushels lower per acre than other top varieties, although it's not certain why, Clark said.

"We still think it's a very good variety -- it stands well for a taller variety, it still makes really good protein," he said. "We just don't know what happened this year."

Kyle Renton, seed agronomist for Pacific Northwest Farm Growers Cooperative, said Fuzion performed well when seeded early. When planted in mid-May, yields dropped off for some reason, even though there wasn't a lot of heat, he said.

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