University of Idaho wheat breeder Jianli Chen began work in 2007 for the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the Aberdeen Research and Extension Center.

Since then, she has focused on developing new varieties of hard white wheat highly prized by flour millers. Near the top of Chen’s priority list are breeding resistance to stripe rust and a drought tolerance in varieties that maintain the high protein so highly prized in hard white wheat.

New releases. In 2009, her program released two hard white winter varieties for dryland growers: UICF Grace and UI Silver. Both have good resistance to stripe rust and top-notch quality.

Existing irrigated varieties’ lack of resistance to stripe rust requires growers of hard white wheat to apply fungicides during the season. The fungicides add to their costs, which growers hope strong market prices in turn offset. Chen is investing a lot of effort into germplasm improvement that is the foundation for new varieties. A particular challenge is developing new varieties for irrigated production.

In 2013, Chen hopes to release a new hard white spring wheat, ID0694, for irrigated production in southern Idaho. It has good protein qualities and high yields while showing good resistance to stripe rust. As a result of the 2011 stripe rust epidemic in southern Idaho, she delayed the release to evaluate that resistance further during 2012.

Using accelerated breeding techniques to develop resistant spring and winter wheat varieties, Chen hopes to help growers avoid at least a portion of their fungicide costs.

A new Idaho Wheat Commission endowment will support efforts by both Chen and Juliet Marshall.