Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Research Progress Reports

2019-2020 WSU Wheat & Barley Research Reports to the Washington Grain Commission

Improving Barley Varieties for Feed, Food, and Malt
Executive Summary: In the previous reporting period, the WSU barley program continued advancing feed, food and malting populations and lines in the field at Spillman Farm. Approximately 1000 plots were harvested and processing to collect data for selection and advancement of elite material. In the 2019-2020 greenhouse the spring malting crossing blocks was planted with selected high-quality malting parental lines and high yielding adapted PNW germplasm selected with increased malt quality. Winter malting and feed barley lines were also selected and planted to begin crossing for the WSU winter barley program that we are initiating in 2020. We are also continuing to evaluate and advance IMI-tolerance in multiple classes of selected elite barley lines. To better utilize molecular marker selection current parental lines and breeding material from the WSU breeding program are being evaluated by genotyping with malt quality molecular markers. In collaboration with Dr. Deven See we are utilizing our PCR targeted Genotype-By-Sequencing (PCR-GBS) platform developed for Ion Torrent next generation sequencing technology to screen 40 WSU two-rowed parental lines to analyze a panel selected from markers associated with low grain protein, increasing malt extract, and reduced wort ß-glucan. A training population and random lines will be screened from selected 2016 WSU lines with malting data to test prediction accuracy utilizing the marker panel for future genomic selection. A virulent population of Puccinia graminis f. sp tritici was also collected from three Washington barley fields. Nearly 100 hundred single spore P. graminis f. sp. tritici isolates were generated and inoculated onto a barley differential set containing the only two effective barley stem rust resistance genes, Rpg1 and rpg4/Rpg5. We identified multiple isolates that are highly virulent on both Rpg1 and rpg4/Rpg5. This type of virulence has never been reported as the combination of these two genes has historically shown resistance to all known isolates worldwide. In order to identify new sources of resistance effective against the new virulent isolates the world barley core collection (BCC) is being screened with the virulent isolates. We conducted phenotypic evaluation and have genotypic data for the BCC lines which will be utilize to identify novel resistance genes as well as utilized for association mapping of identified resistances. If identified these novel stem rust resistances will be introgressed into WSU breeding lines.

Field Breeding Hard White and Red Winter Wheat
Executive Summary: One hard red winter wheat line was released in 2019. Scorpio (WA8268) is a semi-dwarf, high yielding cultivar targets to the intermediate and high rainfall zones of the state, including regions of Northern Oregon and Idaho. This line has excellent stripe rust resistance and is tolerant to low pH soils where there are high amounts of free aluminum. The end-use quality of the line meets export and domestic standards, and is being considered by Shepherd’s Grain for approval in their system. Scorpio is competitive with other hard red cultivars on the market for yield potential, and has the increased benefit of improved disease resistance. In 2019 we tested multiple other hard red winter lines. Another line which is being considered for release is WA8289, and awnless cultivar which has shown very high yield potential in the PNW. This line is targeted to the intermediate and high rainfall production areas. WA8310 is a hard red winter wheat cultivar targeted to the lower rainfall production areas. This line is a semi-dwarf line, but still shows excellent emergence from deep planting and in dry soils. WA8310 has high yield potential and also maintains a higher grain protein content than other lines at a similar yield potential. In addition to these two lines, we have also submitted to the variety testing program a hard red winter wheat line with 2-gene resistance to imazamox. This line is targeted to the low and intermediate rainfall zones of the state, and is targeted to replace acres of SY Clearstone CL2. We continue to make crosses in the market class and develop them through DH methods. Continued emphasis has been placed on selecting breeding lines with superior quality and disease resistance. We also have a strong interest in developing hard lines with excellent emergence capabilities, and continually screen material to this end. Efforts have been initiated and are ongoing to develop hard cultivars with herbicide tolerance, snow mold resistance, and aluminum tolerance. After some renewed interest in hard white wheat, we had increased our efforts for crossing, but after further discussion with the Commission, have reduced this again due to a market shift. We maintain about 10% of the hard material as hard white and apply heavy selection pressure to ensure adapted material is advanced. Some of these hard white lines have been tested under irrigation in Southern Idaho and have performed very well. There is interest to release these lines for production under irrigation in Idaho. Our next main target is to develop hard red cultivars with herbicide resistance.

Use of Biotechnology for Wheat Improvement
Executive Summary: In 2019 we continued our effort to advance breeding lines as quickly and efficiently as possibly by employing both molecular marker analysis and doubled-haploid technology. The traits of main focus for marker-assisted selection are foot rot resistance, stripe rust resistance, herbicide tolerance, and end-use quality. These are our primary focus due to very good markers having been developed and the importance of these traits in Washington.

Additional traits include aluminum tolerance, SBWMV, dwarfing genes, low PPO, Fusarium head blight, Hessian fly, and nematode resistance. Over 15,000 data points were collected on 230 populations to confirm presence of desired genes based on marker profiling. These have been advanced to field testing to confirm presence of the selected genes. Markers were also used to screen all advanced breeding lines to identify presence of known genes. This information was used for selection and advancement purposes (in conjunction with field data) as well as for selecting lines which should be cross-hybridized to create future populations.

The process of marker-assisted selection is an ongoing process, and at any given point we either have lines planted for analysis, in the laboratory undergoing marker profiling, or on increase in the greenhouse after selection to advance seed into field evaluations. Our genomic selection efforts are proceeding and we have completed our fourth year of phenotypic evaluations in the field and genotyping. Data is being used to validate end-use quality selection models. In the greenhouse, we made approximately 550 crosses consisting mainly of soft white and hard red germplasm. These are being advanced to the F1 generation, and then divided between our DH production and MAS protocol. We planted ~2,600 DH plants in the field in 2020 for evaluation. The remaining DH lines are undergoing increase in the greenhouse and will have a similar number ready for yield evaluation in 2021. Our screening process has been slightly altered to allow for marker selection after some field selection is completed.

Field Breeding Soft White Winter Wheat
Executive Summary: A new club cultivar, developed in coordination and collaboration with the USDA breeding program, was approved for release and was named ARS-Castella. This line has excellent stripe rust resistance and tolerance to low pH soils, and is targeted to replace many of the club wheat acres grown in the state. Stingray CL+ was released. It is the highest yielding 2-gene Clearfield line in the WSU and OSU trials when averaged over three years.

Seed will be available commercially in 2020. Devote was another soft white line recently released and is targeted to the low rainfall zones of the state. This line has very good yield potential, and resistance/tolerance to stripe rust, eyespot foot rot, cold temperatures, snow mold, and Fusarium crown rot. WSU lines continue to be very competitive in the market and are well-liked by growers. Many lines were in variety testing trials in 2019, and showed excellent performance. Two of them, WA8305 CL+ and WA8306 CL+ were the highest yielding lines of the 2-gene Clearfield lines, and many times were the highest yielding lines in the trials. We are started seed increases of these two lines. Many other lines are looking promising and breeder seed has been started on them. Over 2,200 unreplicated yield-trial plots were evaluated at either Pullman or Lind and thousands of F4 head rows and DH rows were evaluated in Pullman, Lind, and Waterville. Over 2,000 DH lines were planted for 2020 evaluation. High selection pressure is continually placed on disease resistance, emergence, flowering date, end-use quality, straw strength, etc. Multiple screening locations have been established to evaluate germplasm for: stripe rust resistance, foot rot resistance, snow mold resistance, good emergence, aluminum tolerance, soil borne wheat mosaic virus resistance, Cephalosporium tolerance, and nematode resistance. The program has also employed efforts to develop herbicide resistant cultivars and advanced lines have been entered into Variety Testing. We continue to put a strong emphasis on soft white wheat in the program, and have begun to modify our breeding schemes to account for marker-assisted selection, genomic selection, and doubled-haploid production.

Control of Wheat and Barley Rusts
Executive Summary: During 2019, studies were conducted according to the objectives of the project proposal, and all objectives specified for the first year have been successfully completed. In addition to the major accomplishments and their impacts listed below, this project results in genetic resources and techniques for further studying the biology and genetics of the pathogens, rust resistance, and mechanisms of interactions between the pathogens and plants.

Club Wheat Breeding
Executive Summary: Pritchett was widely available to farmers as a replacement for Bruehl except in severe snow mold regions. Pritchett club wheat was jointly released in 2016 by USDA-ARS and WSU with improved grain yield, test weight, end use quality, and emergence over Bruehl, and stripe rust resistance, cephalosporium stripe resistance, equal to Bruehl, which it is intended to replace.

Castella was increased as foundation seed. It was released jointly by USDA-ARS and WSU in 2017, with improved grain yield, test weight, end use quality and stripe rust resistance over current club cultivars is targeted for the intermediate rainfall area. New entries with better resistance to snow-mold, including one IMI-club, were entered in the WA variety trials in the dry zone. New entries with earlier maturity, excellent standability, excellent club wheat quality and resistance to stripe rust were entered into the WA variety trials in the high rainfall zone.  With our collaborators, we evaluated nurseries at 12 locations in Washington, Idaho and Oregon.

Evaluation of our elite breeding lines for resistance to low falling number is underway. We discovered that Castella is the only current winter wheat cultivar with resistance to Hessian fly. Pritchett was rated as resistant to soil borne mosaic virus.  We evaluated over 2700 breeding lines from around the U.S. for resistance to stripe rust. Because of our work with stripe rust introgression, we have made crosses to several good sources of Hessian fly and wheat virus resistance. We are now increasing in these populations in the greenhouse. We generated 235 doubled haploids. We also evaluated mini-bulk breeding and speed breeding techniques in the greenhouse and discovered that we can save about 20 days off of normal winter wheat generations using these techniques which allows us to advance material through the greenhouse faster and serves as a cost effective alternative to doubled haploids. We advanced 14 populations using this method and plan to increase these efforts in 2020.

Evaluation and Selection for Cold Tolerance in Wheat
Executive Summary: We used the artificial screening system in the greenhouse to evaluate the Washington Extension Soft and Hard Winter Wheat Trials. We have screened these extension trials every year since 2001. The survival results for the top varieties grown according to the Washington Grain Commission Variety Survey are below.

In 2019 we rated 936 breeding lines from public regional winter wheat breeding programs for survival. All breeding programs had lines that varied in winter tolerance. Breeders have used this information for selection of new experimental lines.

We are analyzing the data from two mapping experiments. The first is a large genome wide association study of soft wheat from the WSU winter wheat and ARS winter wheat programs. The second is a doubled haploid population of Cara/Xerpha. These two populations will give us the information about markers associated with freeze tolerance in our adapted wheat populations.

Assessment of Soil Acidity on Soil-Borne Pathogens, Weed Spectrum, Herbicide Activity Yield, and Crop Quality on Dryland Wheat Production
Executive Summary: To initiate this long-term research effort, 24 x 50ft. plots were established in fall 2016 and treated with four ultrafine liquid calcium carbonate treatments (0, 600, 1200, and 2400 lbs/acre) with 4 replications. The plots were soil tested spring 2017, 2018, and 2019. Soil test results indicate the lime applications successfully established different soil acidity levels ranghing from pH 4.85 to pH 6.65. Micro-nutrients were applied based on soil test results and included Zinc, Boron, and Copper. The plots were established in three distinct production zones in order to make the results of this research effort applicable to a wide audience of producers, provide a robust multi-location dataset, and understand how the effects of liming and soil acidity may difer regionally. The three locations include: CBARC Sherman Station in Sherman County, OR (11 in. annual rainfall), the CBARC Pendleton Station in Umatilla County, OR (16 in. annual rainfall), and in Whitman County, WA at the Palouse Conservation Field Station and in a farmer’s field (18 in. annual rainfall).

Hessian Fly Management: An Emerging Research Issue in Wheat
Executive Summary: The Hessian fly, Mayetiola destructor, is an emerging economic threat to wheat grown in the inland Pacific Northwest. While screening for Hessian fly for wheat improvement has been funded by the Washington growers for several years (Pumphrey, Bosque-Pérez, & Rashed), it is critical to have new research on insect management practices for Hessian fly in Washington state based on its emergence as a new economic threat. The overall goal of this project is to increase the profitability and sustainability of Washington wheat-based cropping systems via evidence-based insect management decisions. Our specific goal is to provide new biological and ecological information on this important insect pest that will lead to improved Hessian fly management. We will accomplish this (1) providing a comprehensive review of known environmental factors contributing to Hessian fly outbreaks in the inland Northwest through surveys and collaboration with scientists, growers, and extension specialists and (2) focus specifically on genetic virulence of Hessian fly to new wheat germplasm development in several new and current genetic lines including Louise to precise recommendations for management.

Accomplishments since July 1, 2019 when this project was funded. We have recruited and begun training the Entomology M.S. student, Daniel Gallegos. He has begun working with members of Mike Pumphrey’s lab and Arash Rashed’s lab to go into the field to collect Hessian Fly samples. Daniel and Laura have also attended field days, Daniel attended the Wheat Academy, and both have had meetings with our wheat and grain extension faculty as we put together information on needs for the Hessian Fly biology literature review and extension bulletin. He is in the process of setting up the Hessian Fly wheat screening program at WSU modeled on the facility at the University of Idaho so that we can increase the capacity of genetic lines screened. And we have formed a Hessian Fly reading group that meets twice a month to review the most relevant scientific information on Hessian Fly biology and management.

Extension Education for Wheat and Barley Growers
Executive Summary: New resources were added to the Wheat and Small Grains website in 2019. We added the Herbicide Resistance Resources page in response to increased concern about herbicide resistance in the PNW. A new PNW Extension publication on harvest weed seed control was also published to address the issue of herbicide resistance. Other new Extension publications included PNW492, FS158E, FS331E, and FS333E. The results from the 2019 cereal variety testing program were added to the website and the Variety Selection Tool. The 2018 WSU Weed Control Report was posted as were three new Weed ID quizzes. Twenty-five new episodes of the WSU Wheat Beat Podcast were posted in 2019, a new episode every other week, except during the December campus shutdown. There were also 34 new Timely Topics posted.

The 2019 Wheat Academy was once again full, with 36 growers and 39 industry representatives attending the event. There were several membership changes on the Extension Dryland Cropping Systems Team in 2019. Dr. Clark Neely joined the team as the Extension Agronomist/Variety Testing Lead in August of 2019. Aaron Esser had been managing the Cereal Variety Testing Program since early 2018 when Ryan Higginbotham left WSU. Relieving Aaron of that responsibility will allow him to focus on his areas of interest and expertise. Karen Sowers left the team in 2019 and Dr. Isaac Madsen replaced her on the team. He will provide expertise in oilseed production.

Imaging and Rhizosphere Microbial Analysis of Wheat Seedlings Experiencing Root Rot Caused by Rhizoctonia solani AG8
Executive Summary: Root rot is a yield reducing fungal disease in the inland Pacific Northwest. Rhizoctonia solani AG8 is a fungal pathogen responsible root rot and bare patch in wheat. The present methods for assessing disease severity are subjective and/or expensive disease analysis. This project set out to initiate the development of objective and inexpensive methods for assessing disease severity. The method proposed in this project is an innovative imaging method which uses a scanner based rhizbox and allows for non-destructive observations of disease progression. Four successful experimental runs have been conducted and the project is currently in the analysis phase. The initial experiments demonstrated the ability of the rhizobox methods to detect disease symptoms on infected roots, but has not successfully led to the differentiation between tolerant and susceptible wheat genotypes. The current difficulties in detecting varietal differences are likely due to a lack of variation in tolerance between the wheat varieties used in the study. In a corresponding screening experiments utilizing the conventional screening methods, no differences were found between the varieties used in the trial of the rhizobox method. However, as we are endeavoring to find a more sensitive technique than the conventional technique we intend to continue using image processing and analysis to attempt to delineate between the genotypes. Additionally, we intend to use different wheat genotypes in at least two more experimental runs with the rhizoboxes. These additional runs will focus on using what are known to be highly susceptible varieties of wheat in order to maximize the variation. In addition to the development of the imaging methods described above the soil microbiome of the rhizosphere (soil near the root) and the bulk soil are being analyzed. To date the rhizosphere and bulk soil have been sampled and the DNA has been successfully extracted from the soil. DNA sequencing will be completed by the spring of 2020 and analysis will follow shortly after.

Quality of Varieties and Pre-Release Lines: Genotype & Environment “G&E” Study
Executive Summary: The 2019 harvest sample analysis is more than half done; the project is on-going with the most recent project covering the second of three years. As in previous years, all quality data were/will be analyzed using the t-Score statistic. The quality t– Scores for each soft white winter, club, soft white spring and club, hard red winter, hard red spring, and hard white winter and spring varieties are summarized using ‘Grain’, ‘Milling’, ‘End-Product’, and ‘Overall’ Scores. Varieties in each market class/sub-class are then ranked by the Overall Score. All varieties and advanced breeding lines with three or more years of data are included in the final listing.

Using these results and analyses, the WWQL works closely with the WGC to develop the, “Preferred WHEAT VARIETIES for Washington based on end-use quality” each year with annual updates. Completion of the variety rankings in February represents the first significant accomplishment each year. We coordinate variety classification with Oregon and Idaho cereal chemists.

Supplemental Support for Assessing the Quality of Washington
Executive Summary: This WGC support provides for about 3 months of additional technician time. The additional work is devoted to evaluating breeder samples for quality from early October through mid- January. During this period, spring wheat samples are given priority over winter wheat samples. The aim is to coordinate with the WSU Wheat Quality Program, and complete as many analyses as possible before spring wheat planting decisions are made in early February. In this way, the spring wheat program is made more efficient because inferior quality lines are not planted and grown. The standing goal for WSU winter wheat breeding lines is to complete as many as possible before June 1. Milling and baking evaluations of the 2018-Crop were completed and 2019-Crop testing is well under way at the Western Wheat Quality Lab.

Control of Strawbreaker Foot Rot and Cephalosporium Stripe in Winter Wheat
Executive Summary: Variety trials for eyespot and Cephalosporium stripe were conducted in 2018-19 and are in progress for 2019-20. Forty-two new varieties and advanced lines were evaluated for resistance to eyespot and tolerance to Cephalosporium stripe in inoculated field trials. Sixty lines were planted for each trial in September 2019 for evaluation in June 2020. Data from these plots will be used to update disease ratings in the Washington State Crop Improvement Association Seed Buyers Guide and the WSU Extension Small Grains variety selection tool.

Experiments to map disease resistance genes for eyespot in a Madsen population were conducted to determine whether the same genes control resistance to both pathogens. Phenotyping and genotyping were completed; data analysis is in progress now. In collaboration with colleagues in China, we mapped resistance to both species of cereal cyst nematode (CCN) in the same Madsen population and demonstrated that it carries two different genes, one each to H. avenae and H. filipjevi, both derived from VPM-1, the source of eyespot resistance. That work was published and available to breeders.

Field experiments on the use of variety mixtures for eyespot and Cephalosporium stripe control and spore-trapping of the eyespot fungi to better understand its epidemiology were completed. Data has been summarized, analysis is in progress, and papers being prepared for publication.

Evaluation of Barley Varieties
Executive Summary: During 2019, leadership of the Variety Testing Program transitioned from Aaron Esser to Clark Neely who assumed responsibilities in August. Of the 12 spring barley variety trials planted, Endicott was the only data not distributed due to high unexplained variability within the trial. The trials included nine feed, six malt, two hulless food varieties, and seven experimental lines. Four private companies and two land grant breeding programs entered material into the trial. Persistent spring rains delayed spring plantings and rainfall in August/September further delayed harvest. All 2019 variety trial data was uploaded by December on to the WSU Small Grains website ( The final report with additional information is being finalized for the official 2019 booklet and should be completed by mid-January 2020. In addition to our website and final technical report, variety performance information is delivered to barley growers and other clientele through field tours, grower meetings, emails with preliminary results after harvest (over 200 recipients), Wheat Life article, WSCIA seed buying guide, direct contact with clientele, and reports to the Washington Grain Commission. Scheduling 2020 field tours of variety trials is currently in progress.

Evaluation of Wheat Varieties
Executive Summary: During 2019, leadership of the Variety Testing Program transitioned from Aaron Esser to Clark Neely who assumed responsibilities in August. Of the 24 SWWW, 16 HRWW, 18 SWSW, and 18 HRSW trials planted, a total of five trials were lost due to equipment issues or high variability within the trial. Persistent spring rains delayed spring plantings and rainfall in August/September further delayed harvest. Delayed harvest complicated planting and thus delayed planting 2020 winter trials in many cases. Still, all winter locations were planted with the exception of Pasco, due to a last minute cancellation from the cooperator. All 2019 variety trial data was uploaded by November 22 on to the WSU Small Grains website ( The final report with additional information is being finalized for the official 2019 booklet and should be completed by mid-January 2020. Scheduling 2020 field tours of variety trials is currently in progress.

Management of Nematode Diseases with Genetic Resistance
Executive Summary:
– Over the last 2 funding cycles, we have developed a greenhouse method to screen PNW varieties and germplasm for resistance to cereal cyst nematode (CCN) which has become a problem in eastern Washington, first recognized in 2010. We have screened over 1000 lines, but are limited by finding field inoculum with high levels of the nematode. The populations in some of our field sites has declined, so we have had to locate new sources of inoculum. This resulted in less lines screened this year. Working in the greenhouse, we are constrained by the number of lines that can be screened.

– The ideal solution to phenotyping in the greenhouse is to develop DNA markers linked to CCN resistance. To that end, we have developed two series of markers. The first was from mining the Chinese Spring genome and looking for sequences close to know Cre genes. These were converted to KASP markers which can be run in a high throughput fashion. We have identified four potential markers that show a correct reaction on a set of differentials with known Cre genes and resistance. The second set of SSR markers for Cre 3, 5, 8, and X were designed from the literature. But only Cre 3 and 8 worked, and it appears that lines in the differential set may have more than one Cre gene in them. Both sets of markers will now be tested on a wider range of PNW material.

– To identify new resistance genes in PNW material, we crossed known resistant varieties such as Chara and ARS Crescent and susceptible lines Alpowa, Seahawk, Bruehl, Ouyen and Louise. We are now backcrossing them to develop a mapping population which will be phenotyped, so we can locate new QTL or resistance genes.

– We imported differential lines for identification of CCN pathotypes from Turkey. We have done preliminary pathotype screening with this set of differentials, and our isolates of H. filipjevi do not match know races. We also made a new collection of cysts from a number of locations in Aug. 2019 and a colleague in Turkey extracted cysts to take back to Turkey to also run the pathotype test. In addition, we developed a collection of fungi from the cysts that may be potential biocontrol agents.

Improving Spring Wheat Varieties for the Pacific Northwest
Executive Summary: The WSU spring wheat breeding program’s elite material and recently released varieties continue to be the top performers is statewide variety trials and for growers. A new 2-gene Clearfield hard red spring wheat was released in 2019, Net Cl+. Foundation and registered seed of Ryan, Seahawk, Tekoa, Alum, Chet, and Glee spring wheats and JD and Melba spring club wheats was produced and sold in 2019. Each variety has very good to excellent end-use quality, which is a primary goal of our program to help maintain and increase the value of Washington wheat. WSU soft white spring wheat varieties accounted for 88% of certified soft white spring wheat production acres in Washington in 2019. Our newest soft white spring wheat varieties, Ryan, Seahawk, Tekoa, and Melba, have broad adaptation, superior all-around disease, grain, and agronomic traits, most desirable end-use quality, and top yield performance.  They have  been rapidly adopted by seed dealers and Ryan was by far the leading variety in the state in its first year of widespread availability. Glee, Chet, and Alum are leading dryland hard red spring wheat varieties. WSU hard red spring wheat varieties were planted on 25% of the certified hard red spring wheat production acres in Washington in 2019. The consistency, broad adaptation, disease and pest resistances, sound grain traits, most desirable end-use quality, good falling numbers, and overall performance of these varieties reflects the outputs of comprehensive wheat breeding and genetics research effort supported primarily through funding from this project.

Greenhouse and laboratory efforts for spring wheat variety development
Executive Summary: This project is integral to core efforts of the Spring Wheat Breeding program. This project provides funding to make crosses and develop breeding populations in the greenhouse, staff support for management and selection of breeding materials in the field and greenhouse, and supports/enables the most effective end-use quality selection procedures for development of superior Washington spring wheat varieties. In addition to routine early-generation grain quality selection carried out through this project, we apply DNA marker technology to elite breeding materials, and conduct research projects of direct relevance to our breeding efforts. This project also supports our two-gene Clearfield and AXigen breeding efforts, Fusarium head blight resistance gene introgression, Hessian fly resistance gene introgression, and expanded irrigated hard red spring wheat breeding efforts. Our progress in each of these areas is consistent, and these outputs shape our overall breeding efforts.

End-Use Quality Assessment of Washington State University Wheat Breeding LInes
Executive Summary: WSU spring and winter wheat variety development programs heavily emphasize selection for superior end-use quality. Quality evaluation of WSU breeding lines has been ongoing for over 50 years. Effective quality testing is essential for the recent release of new varieties from all market classes that are at or near the top of end-use quality rankings. This project supports a scientist to conduct thousands of quality tests per year for the WSU wheat breeding programs in conjunction with USDA-ARS Western Wheat Quality Laboratory efforts.

The majority of wheat from the PNW is exported to overseas markets. To maintain current markets and penetrate new markets, PNW wheat must possess quality characteristics that make it superior for use in both domestic and overseas markets. Therefore, before it is released, a new variety must be tested to determine if it is suitable for use in specific end-use products. In addition, increased competition from traditional and non-traditional export countries necessitates enhancing the end-use quality of our wheat. The loss of overseas markets would continue to cause a reduction in the demand and therefore the price of wheat, resulting in losses to Washington farmers. Washington wheat growers, as well as grain buyers and exporters, benefit from the availability of wheat varieties that require less inputs and possess superior, consistent end-use quality.

Fusarium Crown Rot on Wheat- Prebreeding and Development of Tools for Genetic Disease Mangement
Executive Summary: 

  • In 2019, 197 lines from a cross of Louise and a resistant Iranian land race (IWA8608077), further backcrossed to Louise, were tested in the field and greenhouse assays. The field test was at Lind, planted into land previously cropped with durum, highly susceptible to Fusarium. We had very high disease pressure in the field nursery. In the greenhouse, higher disease was seen in the adult plant assay than the seedling assay. The population was genotyped with GMS markers in the Western Small Grains Genotyping lab and 245 markers were selected to look for QTLs. The population has also been genotyped with GBS markers which are still being analyzed. Several of the lines had yields similar to Louise, indicating that this population may be useful for
  • Twenty-one additional land Iranian land races were evaluated in the greenhouse, and six showed consistent tolerance in seedling assays (AUS28329, AUS28452, AUS28459, AUS28706, AUS28714 and AUS28723). AUS28452 also showed good adult plant resistance in the greenhouse. These lines are being increased for further
  • A doubled haploid population from Cara/Xerpha was evaluated in the greenhouse. Fifteen lines showed lower disease ratings than Xerpha and
  • To reduce variability in the greenhouse test, we experimented with grinding the millet inoculum and quantifying it with dilution planting. The previous method relies on whole millet seed. Future work will examine different inoculum amounts, covering the inoculum with soil, the effects of humidity, different methods to standardize the rating system itself, and the number of plants that have to be rated to achieve a consistent

Evaluation of WSU Wheat Breeding Lines for Management of Hessian Fly and Development of DNA Markers for Resistance Breeding
Executive Summary: Hessian fly (HF) infestations continue to cause significant annual yield losses in spring wheat production areas of Washington and neighboring regions of Oregon and Idaho. Hessian fly is in many ways a silent problem. Moderate infestations are not visually striking, and their occurrence is somewhat variable over space and time. Factors such as weather patterns, crop rotation, variety selection, and tillage or conservation practices can impact HF pressure. Infestation may also be a significant barrier to increased conservation tillage practices in Washington. Advanced breeding lines, new sources of resistance genes H13, H26, and two unknown resistance sources, along with winter wheat varieties were screened for Hessian fly resistance in 2019. Backcross populations were developed with four new sources of resistance, and progeny advanced to select homozygous resistant lines. Winter wheat populations and varieties were screened to introgress HF resistance into winter wheat. This project supported the screening of all new entries in WSU Variety Testing Program spring wheat trials.

A Genetic Arsenal for Drought Tolerance, Getting to the Root of the Problem
Executive Summary: Lignin content and accumulation in stems, leaves and roots has been linked with different stress tolerances in crop plants. Lignin confers rigidity to plant cell walls, and increases in response to drought, heavy metals, salinity, and pathogen attack. Therefore, managing overall lignin content, as well as its proportion in the roots versus shoots of crop plants is important for improved stress tolerance. Few studies have investigated the role of lignin in grass root systems at present. Reports on maize and wheat showed that lignin content in the root was higher than in the shoot, and that these levels varied depending on genotype. In wheat, lignin concentration was shown to decrease in seedlings and roots when exposed to mineral deficiencies and increase in response to toxic minerals. Given these findings, our preliminary results, there is a need to further investigate the role of lignin in roots. The overall goal of the project is to determine the role of lignin in wheat roots for drought tolerance and disease resistance and to develop a high-throughput method for lignin analysis is wheat roots and straw. We have worked on processing stem and root tissues for overall lignin content using two independent assays as well as sending pulverized stem and root tissues for analysis of monomers to the Zhang lab at WSU-TC. We had good success with lignin extraction in stems, but are still working on lignin extraction from root tissues. As such, we are outsourcing the lignin chemistry to a collaborator who works with grasses and lignin in roots and has already developed protocols. We have also begun to implement drought studies using the Phenospex drought spotter in the wheat greenhouse. In the coming year, we will refine the methodology and complete the analyses on the Lou/Au backcross populations in terms of lignin content, drought performance, and disease resistance for soil-borne pathogens.

Breeding Wheat Varieties With Efficient Control of ROS Production
Executive Summary: This project aims to advance toolbox for breeding drought and heat tolerant spring wheat varieties. Our approach is based on the fact that harsh environmental conductions, including heat and drought, increase production of free radicals also known as Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS). ROS damage plant cells and in this way diminish the yield. Plants with good capacity to alleviate the impact of ROS using so-called “scavenging” mechanisms are expected to yield better in hot and dry climates. We want to develop technology for identification of genotypes with efficient ROS scavenging. Previously, our laboratory developed a technique for measuring capacity of plants to scavenge ROS under the greenhouse condition. During the first year we tested suitability of our technique for plants grown under field conditions using 7 soft white and 7 hard spring wheat varieties: Diva, Louise, Melba, Ryan, Whit, Seahawk, Tekoa, LCS Luna, SY Selway, Alum, Chet, Dayn, Glee and Kelse. All varieties were grown by the WSU Variety Testing Program at three locations: Spillman Farm, Lind, and Moses Lake. We collected half of a square inch of flag leaf from 15 plants at each location. Then we measured the efficiency of ROS homeostasis in the total extracts from the collected material. The most robust ROS scavenging was in the varieties Diva, Melba, Alum, Chet and Glee whereas less robust ROS scavenging was in varieties LCS Luna, SY Selway, and Whit. Varieties Luise, Ryan, Dylan, Kelse, Tekoa and Seahawk had a medium efficiency of the ROS scavenging. During this year we build the foundation for analyzing breeding lines in year 2.

Developing Washington Wheat with Stable Hagberg Falling Numbers (FN) Through Resistance to Preharvest Sprouting and LMA

Executive Summary: The goal is to breed for stable Falling Numbers (FN) in Washington  wheat through selection for genetic resistance to preharvest sprouting and late maturity alpha- amylase (LMA). The project identified cultivars with low FN problems through evaluation  of the WSU cereal variety trials, and with sprouting and LMA problems through greenhouse and field testing. We have identified molecular markers linked to LMA and PHS resistance to allow selection in early breeding lines. We improved LMA methods.

Objective 1. Identify varieties with stable FN by performing FN tests and statistical analysis of variety trials in environments that have preharvest sprouting and/or LMA

FN data from the soft white winter WSU variety trials was analyzed using five statistical methods designed to examine the impact of genetics and the environment. FN is difficult to analyze because it is impacted by multiple environmental factors leading to preharvest sprouting or LMA. The factor analytic model provided the best fit for this complex dataset, and will be used to compare variety performance for falling number and how stable that falling number is in challenging environments.

Objective 2. Screen winter and spring wheat breeding lines for preharvest sprouting and/or LMA. In 2018, 1,335 lines were screened for LMA and 708 lfor preharvest sprouting susceptibility by spike-wetting test. In 2019, 1113 samples were screened for LMA, and 810 were screened for PHS susceptibility by spike-wetting test.

Objective 3. Identify molecular markers linked to LMA susceptibility in northwest wheat.

  1. We completed a genome-wide association study of the hard red spring TCAP population (250 lines) and identified six putative genes/loci associated with LMA phenotype. Of these 6, two were previously identified in Australian wheat. We will examine if these markers predict LMA in PNW breeding lines. b. Two winter RIL populations were screened for LMA in 2019. Objective 4. Develop molecular markers for selection of PHS resistance in northwest wheat. Genome-wide association mapping was conducted in two related populations. Some loci linked to good seedling emergence did not correspond to loci for preharvest sprouting resistance, suggesting that we may be able to select preharvest sprouting resistant without compromising seedling emergence. A preliminary geomic selection model was developed in the hope of selecting PHS tolerance without compromising emergence.

Intelligent Prediction and Association Tool to Facilitate Wheat Breeding
Executive Summary: We updated one software package, released a new software packages, and published one article partially under support of this project in this fiscal year. The GAPIT software package updated for new functions for both GWAS (Genome Wide Association Study) and GS (Genomic Selection) ( GAPIT is R Package for users with programming skills in R language. Analyses can be programmed to process large amount of analyses with same settings. The new software package is GbyE ( Both of these packages implemented a new method we published by Huang and et al. (Giga Science, 2019). We also publish an article on Wheat Life in October of 2019 entitled “ Party game ignites satellite, drone research effort”. A podcast was also published by Wheat Science about the stories behind the research project.

2018-2019 WSU Wheat & Barley Research Reports to the Washington Grain Commission

Plant Protection

Variety Selection & Testing

2017-2018 Research Progress Report

2016-2017 Research Progress Report

2015-2016 Research Progress Report

2014-2015 Research Progress Report

Washington State University