Wheat improvement going into overdrive

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Hard Red Spring Wheat (HRS) growers may not realize it, but more than a dozen breeding programs located all over the planet are supporting the development of new LCS varieties each year for markets in the Northern Plains of the United States, according to Jim Peterson, Ph.D., Limagrain Cereal Seeds’ vice president of research.

Public universities and private breeding programs have been developing new varieties for many years in Minnesota, Montana and the Dakotas. When Limagrain Cereal Seeds (LCS) entered the market, the Limagrain Group’s global breeding network gave wheat farmers access to the best spring wheat genetics in the world, not just in the Northern Plains.

The seeds of change were sown when LCS purchased Dr. Bob Romig’s Trigen Seeds program in 2010. The ensuing LCS/Trigen wheat breeding program has been incorporating genetics from advanced Limagrain breeding programs on five different continents.

Through a combination of traditional and advanced breeding strategies including pre-breeding, molecular marker analysis, doubled haploid technology, single seed descent, disease screening and end-use quality analysis, plant breeders working in these global programs create new elite varieties each year.

In 2010 Dr. Peterson put a plan in motion to manage and exploit this global germplasm base. For the LCS spring wheat program, partnerships in South America, Scandinavia, the Mediterranean region and Australia have made it possible not only for counter-season nursery exchange, but also incorporation of a shuttle-breeding approach. Through shuttle-breeding, two programs can make concurrent selections for disease and stress tolerance that will benefit both programs, and in time, the growers they serve. For the LCS spring wheat program, partnerships in South America have made it possible to double the speed in which varieties are released.

The best genetics in the world

These exclusive groups of material are the very best genetics available on the planet in any given year and because of the Limagrain global network, they are exchanged between breeders for testing and inter-mating. This globalized effort has given LCS an ability to offer farmers in the U.S. something they have not had before: access to literally the best wheat genetics the world has to offer.

The life cycle required to create a new variety of wheat begins with the cross pollination of a single hybrid head and, through conventional breeding, ends 8–10 years later with the sale and distribution of purified elite foundation seed. LCS’ partnership with advanced programs in other parts of the world has made it possible not only to test and exchange elite germplasm at earlier generations, but to import elite varieties with seed stocks already available for production.

In terms of disease resistance, this partnership has provided access to material that has been bred in environments with extremely high Fusarium and Bacterial Leaf Blight pressure. This means these varieties will have new and durable resistance packages for two of the most prominent yield-reducing pathogens in the Northern Plains.

With advanced genetics available, regional adaptation and end-use quality become the next big hurdles.

“By and large, foreign genetics usually require some level of re-combination with
regionally adapted cultivars before they can succeed and compete in a new environment,” said LCS HRS breeder Dr. Blake Cooper. “However, some of the South American material we’ve been testing was able to hit the ground running the first year we had it in trials in terms of agronomic performance.”

The ability to exploit these relationships directly saves generations in the breeding cycle, and leaves a final question that is asked of all LCS elite variety candidates: “Does it have the quality required to make an end-use product?” The new LCS quality lab is in place to provide a final assessment of the milling and baking properties of these candidates before they are considered for release.

LCS’ first U.S. release to come from this international partnership will be widely available to growers next year and 2013 foundation seed stocks have already been allocated to seed growers and sold by the LCS commercial team.

Dr. Cooper’s first U.S. release to come from this international partnership will be widely available to growers next year, as 2013 foundation seed stocks have been sold out for months. “We’re very excited about the potential of this new variety,” he said. “Technical information will be available on our website soon, http://www.limagraincerealseeds.com/ — so keep watching.

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