Researchers Strive to Match Winter Hardiness of Winter Wheat to that of Fall Rye

Mar 31, 2014

By Bruce Cochrane

The executive director of Winter Cereals Canada says genetic research holds out the hope for the development of winter wheat varieties that are as winter hardy as fall rye.

Winter Cereals Manitoba and the Saskatchewan Winter Cereals Development Commission have provided 400 thousand dollars in start-up funding for a five year project aimed at developing winter wheat varieties that are more winter hardy.

The goal of the project is to take lines of winter wheat genetically selected for winter hardiness out into the field for testing.

Jake Davidson, the executive director of Winter Cereals Canada, estimates fall rye is at least 25 percent more winter hardy than winter wheat.

Jake Davidson-Winter Cereals Canada:
The holy grail for winter wheat would be if we could get winter wheat to the same hardiness as fall rye.

Fall rye is super winter hardy and that is the ultimate goal.
Unfortunately this same work is finding that the genes in fall rye that are largely responsible for fall hardiness are not necessarily located on the same chromosomes or in the same what they call loci as in winter wheat so it's a little bit trickier but, by studying the fall rye and finding out what appears to be responsible there, the researchers can go looking in the same sites on the winter wheat varieties and see if they can find what are activated sites that are having an influence.

So our holy grail would be in the distant future, we hope not too distant, that we could have winter wheat varieties as hardy as fall rye.

Davidson says using genetics to identify those lines of winter wheat with the most promise can eliminate years of screening work where researchers have to seed test plots then visually assess the plants to see what's happened.

Source: Farmscape

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