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Research Progress Reports

2020-2021 WSU Wheat & Barley Research Reports to the Washington Grain Commission

Improving Barley Varieties for Feed, Food and Malt (pdf)
Executive summary: During my first field season as the WSU barley breeder and PI of this grant, we made excellent progress considering the difficulties imposed by COVID-19. The Washington Grains Commission (WGC) funds were directed at enhancing the WSU spring malt barley breeding program and establishing a winter malt barley breeding program. The major goal of both spring and winter classes of malt barley is the development of varieties that make the American Malting Barley Association (AMBA) recommended list.

To quickly achieve greater efficiency in the WSU malt barley breeding programs we needed to add or upgraded equipment, instrumentation, and technologies. The most important addition to instrumentation and capabilities included the development of the state-of-the-art WSU Malt Quality Lab (WMQL) that was funded by the WGC. This facility is projected to be analyzing 2019 field season material in February 2020, which will provide much greater efficiency when selecting early and late generation materials for malt quality. To aid the rapid early generation selection we also equipped the WSU barley breeding and molecular lab with the capability to run PCR genotype-by-sequencing libraries for amplicon sequencing and added the computational power to run the bioinformatics analysis. In collaboration with Dr. Deven Cee’s USDA cereal genotyping lab, we developed a panel of 100 DNA markers associated with malt quality traits initially focused on malt extract, low protein, and low beta-glucan. This will allow us to utilize marker-assisted selection (MAS) and genomic selection (GS) strategies to further our capability to make early generation quality predictions and select progeny for malt quality characteristics. Thus, the early generation spring head rows (~10,000/year), advanced single rep yield trials (~500/year), and multi rep yield trials (~50/year) will be enriched for malt quality so we can concentrate on selecting for farmer traits including yield, height, standability and disease resistance in the field utilizing traditional selection strategies. This capability will also be important in the winter malt barley selection processes as we begin advancing these materials in the program which will double our materials in the field each season.

To aid in the efficient later generation selection the major piece of equipment and upgrade was our new “Wintersteiger classic plus” plot combine with the Harvest Master H2- Classic weighing system. The new combine provides us with real-time yield, test weight, and moisture data, saving time and funding previously dedicated to threshing and analysis. This will allow for greater field capacity of later generation lines, which will be very important as we add winter field nurseries and trials to the breeding program. This will provide much more efficient use of the WGC funds and will allow for greater capacity to analyze later generation material that have already been screened for quality in the WMQL and via a marker-assisted selection of both the advanced spring malt barley lines and future advanced winter barley lines.

Weed Management in Wheat (pdf)
Executive summary: Weed control is one of the major challenges facing wheat growers in the PNW. To address this problem, the Weed Science Program conducts a multi-disciplinary field, greenhouse, and laboratory research project to address the critical issues that Washington wheat growers face. One aspect of this work is the evaluation of herbicides, both registered and nonregistered, for crop tolerance and weed control in wheat production systems. This work is often, but not always, conducted in partnership with agricultural chemical companies. These field studies allow us to make better recommendations to growers, and they provide us the opportunity to work with the various companies to better refine their labels for the benefit of Washington wheat growers. The results from these studies are summarized in the WSU Weed Control Report, which is shared with the Washington Grain Commission and posted on the WSU Extension Small Grains website annually. The Weed Science Program continues to look at the biology and ecology of troublesome weeds including downy brome, Russian-thistle, and mayweed chamomile.

Field Breeding Hard White and Red Winter Wheat (pdf)
Executive summary: A new hard red winter wheat line was released in 2020. This line was named Balance (WA8248) and was released mainly due to performance and interest from the seed industry in Montana. This line has been tested for production in Washington, but it was found that Scorpio (released in 2019) had better performance. Due to its performance in Montana, we decided to release the line rather than discard it from the program. Balance was released mainly because of its resistance to stripe rust, high grain yield and grain protein concentration in Montana, and tolerance to low pH soils, an issue becoming more of a problem in Montana. Recent data suggested that Scorpio has tolerance to Hessian fly, furthering interest in this line. In 2020 we tested multiple other hard red winter lines. Another line that is being considered for release is WA8209, and cultivar which has shown very high grain yield in higher rainfall zones of the state. 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 a 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, WA8318 CL+ (a hard red winter wheat line with 2-gene resistance to imazamox) is being tested. 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 watch the hard red market to determine the interest of this line in commercial production. 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 (Clearfield and CoAXium systems), snow mold tolerance, and aluminum tolerance. We maintain about 10% of the hard material as hard white and apply a heavy selection pressure to ensure the 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 (pdf)
Executive summary: In 2020 we continued our effort to advance breeding lines as quickly and efficiently as possible by employing both molecular marker analysis and doubled-haploid technology. The traits of the main focus for marker-assisted selection are foot-rot resistance, stripe rust resistance, herbicide tolerance, and end-use quality. All of these traits are already in established breeding lines and have very good markers to track them. Additional traits include aluminum tolerance, SBWMV, dwarfing genes, low PPO, Fusarium head blight, Hessian fly, and nematode resistance. While we have established some breeding lines with these traits, we are working to increase the number of lines carrying these traits, using markers to track their presence. Over 10,000 data points were collected on 200 populations to confirm the presence of desired genes, which was a decrease from previous years given the limitations we had accessing our campus facilities. All lines which go through marker testing are then transferred to field testing to confirm the expected phenotype is expressing. Markers were also used to screen all advanced breeding lines to identify the presence of known genes. This information was used for selection and advancement purposes (in conjunction with field data) as well as for selecting lines that should be cross-hybridized to create future populations. Our genomic selection efforts are proceeding and we have completed our fifth year of phenotypic evaluations in the field and genotyping. Data is being used to validate selection models for multiple traits. In the greenhouse, we made approximately 650 crosses consisting mainly of soft white and hard red germplasm. We also started a large crossing block to begin widely incorporating new traits of interest, mainly herbicide resistance and pest resistance traits. These are being advanced to the F1 generation, and then divided between our MAS protocol and generational advancement. We planted ~2,000 DH plants in the field in 2020 for evaluation. The remaining DH lines are undergoing an increase in the greenhouse and will have a similar number ready for planting 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 (pdf)
Executive summary: Two new cultivars, Piranha CL+ and Sockeye CL+ were approved for release in September, 2020. Both lines have improved disease resistance (snow mold tolerance, stripe rust resistance, and strawbreaker footrot tolerance) and yield potential over the two most widely grown Clearfield cultivars in production. Piranha CL+ is a widely adapted line and performs best under deep-furrow plantings. Sockeye CL+ is also widely adapted and has maximum yield potential under high input systems. Both lines had strong demand for foundation seed, and are being increased by seed dealers are rapidly as possible. Recent releases of Stingray CL+ and Pritchett were planted in 2020 for commercial production and were in high demand. Castella and Devote are in their final stages of seed increase and will be available for commercial production in 2021. These recent releases all have high grain yield, disease resistance, and good end-use quality. Production of these lines will mitigate concerns growers have with current cultivars. Many new lines have been entered into Variety Testing trials in 2021, and are also on breeder seed increase. Promising lines are also being advanced with the CoAXium system, and are in statewide trials. Over 2,000 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 1,500 DH lines were planted for the 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, footrot resistance, snow mold resistance, good emergence, aluminum tolerance, soil-borne wheat mosaic virus resistance, Cephalosporium tolerance, and nematode resistance. Some of these locations were not planted in the fall of 2020 due to reductions in the FY2021 budget request. We continue to put a strong emphasis on soft white wheat in the program, and have modified our breeding schemes to account for marker-assisted selection, genomic selection, and doubled-haploid production. We have increased the number of locations we test at to account for new herbicide-resistant lines (non-imazamox) and to better evaluate lines across production regions in Washington.

Improving Control of Rusts of Wheat and Barley (pdf)
Executive summary: During 2020, studies were conducted according to the objectives of the project proposal, and all objectives specified for the second 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, stripe rust resistance, and mechanisms of interactions between the pathogens and plants.

Club Wheat Breeding (pdf)
Executive summary: Pritchett was grown on 15,183 acres in 2020. Castella club wheat was available as a registered seed in the fall of 2020. 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 stand-ability, 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. This year we evaluated all of the plots in our yield trials in Lind and Pullman for resistance to low falling number using spike wetting tests. This data was available prior to planting so that we could make selections. Pritchett was rated as resistant to soil-borne mosaic virus over multiple years of testing by Dr. C. Hagerty of OSU. We evaluated over 2500 breeding lines from around the U.S. for resistance to stripe rust. We made crosses to several good sources of Hessian fly and wheat virus resistance and these are being advanced for selection. We 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 were unable to visit with our collaborators of the Japanese Flour Miller’s Association in person in 2020 due to the pandemic but we were able to meet in a virtual conference in July 2020. From that interaction, we are investigating additional methods to measure cake quality including image analysis and texture classification. We entered the following lines into the WA variety testing trials in 2021: ARS09X492-6CBW, ARS14DH1122-26, ARS09500-17CBW, ARSX12015-68CBW, ARSX190997-8D, WA8317. We currently plan to propose ARS09X492-6CBW for release targeted to the Palouse. WA8317 is a Cl2 line developed in conjunction with the WSU Winter Wheat program and will also likely be proposed for release.

Evaluation and Selection for Cold Tolerance in Wheat (pdf)
Executive summary: In 2020, in spite of the slow down due to the pandemic, we rated 924 breeding lines and cultivars from public winter wheat breeding and variety testing programs for survival. This compared well with 2019 when we tested 936 lines. Breeders used this information for selection of new experimental lines. We have evaluated the Washington Extension Winter Wheat Trials every year since 2001. The survival results for the top varieties grown according to the Washington Grain Commission Variety Survey are below (next page). We observed association between our testing results and the winter injury that occurred in WA in April of 2020.

We conducted a genome-wide association study of wheat from the WSU winter wheat and ARS winter wheat programs and a doubled haploid population of Cara/Xerpha. We also did a preliminary QTL analysis on a population derived from the very cold tolerant Canadian cultivar, Norstar, in collaboration with Dr. Debbie Laudencia of USDA-ARS in Albany CA. We previously identified allelic variation at the Vrn and CBF genes on the group 5 chromosomes that impacts vernalization requirement and cold tolerance. We have now identified QTL for cold tolerance on chromosomes 1A, 2A, 4A, 5B, 7A, and 7B in more than one population. These results will be used in genomic selection models to improve freezing tolerance in PNW wheat.

We analyzed gene expression data for epigenetic effects of exposure to cold in the cultivar Norstar. One version of Norstar was induced to flower with the usual vernalization (exposure to cold) and the other was induced to flower only with longer day-lengths. We identified 19 genes with expression differences and are following up on this research in year 3.

Hessian Fly Management: An Emerging Research Issue in Wheat (pdf)
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. Entomology M.S. student, Daniel Gallegos has sampled Hessian Fly from many locations including variety trial test sites in eastern Washington. Sampling has been done by hand sampling for pupae and with pheromone traps in collaboration with Ric Wesselman and Dan Maxfield from Syngenta. Sampling data is being analyzed and compared with sampling data from the summers of 2019 and 2020.

Daniel has set up a Hessian Fly wheat screening program at WSU in the older part of the CAHNRS Plant Growth Facility modeled on the facility at the University of Idaho so that we can increase the capacity of genetic lines screened.

Daniel has drafted a “What Fly is in my Grain; a visual key to identifying Hessian fly and look-alikes in PNW grains” that will be submitted for peer review in early 2021. In addition, in collaboration with Tavin Schneider (MS student in Pumphrey lab) and Samuel Prather (Ph.D. student in Pumphrey lab), we have drafted an extension bulletin that will be submitted for peer review titled “Managing Hessian fly (Mayetiola destructor Say) in Washington and the greater PNW in early 2021. This extension bulletin specifically describes and provides information on management practices to control Hessian Fly that are currently available.

Extension Education for Wheat and Barley Growers (pdf)
Executive summary: New resources were added to the Wheat and Small Grains website in 2020. We started our first blog, Weeders of the West, with authors from WSU, Oregon State University, and the University of Idaho. A new story is posted every other week and authors respond to comments posted to the blog. Two new quizzes were added to the website: 1) the Insect & Insect Damage ID Quiz, and 2) the Soil Nutrient ID Quiz. A new PNW Extension publication (PNW754) on best management practices for managing herbicide resistance was added to the website. Other new Extension publications included revisions to PNW660 (feral rye) and 668 (downy brome). The results from the 2020 cereal variety testing program were added to the website and the Variety Selection Tool. The 2019 WSU Weed Control Report was posted as were two new Weed ID quizzes. Twenty-six new episodes of the WSU Wheat Beat Podcast were posted in 2020, a new episode every other week. There were also 49 new Timely Topics posted. The 2020 Wheat Academy was canceled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Breeder Quality Trials (pdf)
Executive summary: A new program commenced in FY 2019/20 to ‘pre-screen’ experimental breeding lines before they are entered into the WSU Wheat Variety Trials. This pre-screening was aimed at increasing the likelihood that newly released soft white wheat varieties meet industry standards before gaining substantial acreage and influencing the overall quality of the grain being exported from the Inland PNW. Quality data generated from this trial will be analyzed using the standard t-Score and the results (and interpretation) returned to the breeder. The data can also be included in the analysis used for the Preferred Variety brochure. The check variety will be drawn from the adjoining Variety Testing nursery.

Quality of Varieties & Pre-release Lines: Genotype & Environment-“G&E” Study (pdf)
Executive summary: The 2020 harvest sample analysis is roughly half done; the project is on-going with the most recent project covering the third 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 Wheat Breeding Samples (pdf)
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 2019-Crop were completed and 2019-Crop testing is well underway at the Western Wheat Quality Lab.

Control of Eyespot and Cephalosporium Stripe in Winter Wheat (pdf)
Executive summary: Variety trials for eyespot and Cephalosporium stripe were conducted in 2018-19 and 2019-20. A total of 102 two new varieties and advanced lines were evaluated for resistance to eyespot and tolerance to Cephalosporium stripe in inoculated field trials. Data from these plots is used to update disease ratings in the Washington State Crop Improvement Association Seed Buyers Guide and the WSU Extension Small Grains variety selection tool.

Five growth chamber experiments were conducted to map eyespot disease resistance genes in Madsen and Cappelle-Desprez populations to determine whether the same genes control resistance to both species of the eyespot pathogen. Phenotyping and genotyping were completed, data analysis is nearly done, and a manuscript is in progress. In collaboration with colleagues in China, resistance to both species of cereal cyst nematode (CCN) was mapped 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.

Two field experiments were conducted to determine the effect of new seed treatment fungicides and the effect of foliar fungicides on eyespot. Seed treatment fungicides did not reduce disease or improve yield over the untreated control; however, one of the foliar fungicide treatments resulted in significantly less disease and increased yield compared to the untreated control. If registered, it would be a new active ingredient for use in eyespot control.

Evaluation of Barley Varieties (pdf)
Executive summary: Of the 12 spring barley variety trials planted in 2020, Palouse and Pullman were the only data not published due to high unexplained variability within the trial. The trials included seven feed, eight malt, two hulless food varieties, and seven experimental lines. Three private companies and two land grant breeding programs entered material into the trial. Dry conditions in March and early April allowed for most sites to be planted one to four weeks earlier than normal. Cooler temps and precipitation picked up in late April and hung around through June improving yields. All 2020 barley variety trial data was uploaded by November 25 on to the WSU Small Grains website (http://smallgrains.wsu.edu). The 2020 final report with additional information was posted on January 5. In addition to our website and final technical report, variety performance information was delivered to barley growers and other clientele through virtual field tours, emails with preliminary results after harvest (over 200 recipients), Wheat Life article, WSCIA seed buying guide, and reports to the Washington Grain Commission. The Variety Testing Program was unable to conduct in-person field days due to COVID-19 and so virtual field days were recorded at four locations and posted on the WSU CAHNRS YouTube Channel.

Evaluation of Wheat Varieties (pdf)
Executive summary: For the 2020 season, the Variety Testing Program planted 23 SWWW, 15 HRWW, 18 SWSW, and 18 HRSW trials. Of these, two SWWW, one HRWW, and one HRSW trial were lost due to resistant weed issues or high variability within the trial. Weather was mostly favorable throughout the state with at or above-average yields for the majority of sites. Dry conditions in March and early April allowed for most spring sites to be planted one to four weeks earlier than normal. Cooler temps and precipitation picked up in late April and hung around through June improving yields. Dry conditions in the early fall of 2020 delayed winter wheat emergence in higher rainfall zones despite timely planting. All 2020 individual location winter data was posted by August 30 (spring wheat data was posted by October 23) on to the WSU Small Grains website (http://smallgrains.wsu.edu). The 2020 final report with additional information was posted January 5. 2021 Winter Field Maps were posted online November 23. The Variety Testing Program was unable to conduct in-person field days due to COVID-19 and so virtual field days were recorded at four locations and posted on the CAHNRS YouTube Channel.

Weather Stations to Support Variety Testing and Wheat Research (pdf)
Executive summary: The purpose of this project was to obtain and install Tier 2 (Atmos 41) weather stations at all variety trial locations that were greater than 5 miles from the nearest WSU AgWeatherNet (AWN) station. Data collected includes air temperature, humidity, dewpoint, wind speed and direction, precipitation, solar radiation, soil temperature, soil moisture, and leaf wetness. The original locations identified included Creston (20 mi.), Bickleton (18 mi.), Connell (15 mi.), Lamont (12 mi.), Plaza (12 mi.), Fairfield (11 mi.), Colton (11 mi.), Mayview (10 mi.), Dusty (8mi.), Endicott (6 mi.), Palouse (6 mi.), Moses Lake (6 mi.), and Reardan (5 mi.) plus Walla Walla (4 mi.) because of the sharp rainfall gradient in the area. Stations have successfully been installed at all sites except Plaza because that location is transitioning to a new cooperator. It will be installed spring of 2021 once the new cooperator is identified. All newly installed stations are now within two miles of the trial and all but three locations are less than one mile. While these stations can be moved, they are meant to be stationary for consistent historical data. Weather data is updated every 15 minutes onto the WSU AgWeatherNet website. Connectivity is limited by cell phone reception and so stations at Endicott and Lamont are currently unable to update regularly to the website but are still collecting weather data that can be harvested by hand. Eventually, a directional antennea will be connected to the stations to boost signal. The VTP already has or is currently coordinating with AWN program to move some preexisting stations closer to trials at Harrington, Farmington, Anatone, St. Andrews (complete), and St. John (complete).

Management of Nematode Diseases with Genetic Resistance (pdf)
Executive summary: This grant was not funded for the 2nd year of this cycle. A previous 3-year summary was submitted for the previous cycle (Jan. 2019) and Year 1 of the grant (Jan. 2020). Here, we report on our progress from Jan 1, 2020 to June 30, 2020, which covers the last half of Year 1 grant. Because of COVID, activity was severely curtailed in the lab, but we did accomplish the following:

  • collected infested soil in Fall, 2019 to use in greenhouse screening and testing in 2020.
  • continue to cross-resistant/susceptible lines for RIL and NIL populations, as described in the previous report.
  • we used a known Cre sequence to blast against the Chinese Spring genome, identified similar sequences, found SNPs near the region (this was recorded in last year’s report) and developed markers for these SNPs. However, at present, without reliable Cre gene differential lines with single Cre genes, it was difficult to draw conclusions from these markers.
  • started screening a winter wheat population, as part of an USDA pre-doctoral scholarship for Nikayla Strauss, a PhD student with Drs. Campbell and Paulitz. The synthetic wheat population used in this project is the D-genome Nested Association Mapping (DNAM) population. The DNAM population is the result of 8 different hybridizations of Ae. tauschii with a hexaploid hard white Kansas breeding line. The Ae. tauschii accessions were chosen for their diversity compared to the D-genome in modern wheat varieties. All Recombinant Inbred Lines (RILs) in this population have the same genetic material for the A and B genomes, varying only in genes in the D-genome. During preliminary greenhouse CCN screenings, it was discovered that lines within DNAM family U6713 have resistance to both species of CCN found in the US, Heterodera avenae and Heterodera filipjevi, especially TA1642 (Figure 1). KS05HW14 exhibited resistance to H. avenae but not H. filipvevi. Thus, this resistance would be extremely useful if incorporated into elite adapted varieties because the germplasm we are starting from is relatively well adapated.

Fusarium Crown Rot on Wheat: Prebreeding and Development of Tools for Genetic Disease Management (pdf)
Executive summary: Over the last 3 years, our main objectives have been to continue identify new and existing sources of resistance that can be used in the WA breeding programs to create tolerant varieties. Finding resistance to Fusarium crown rot is a much more intractable problem than finding single- major genes to control diseases such as stripe rust or cereal cyst nematode. There are no major genes identified for resistance against this disease. A much longer and better funded effort in Australia over the last 30 years has identified some varieties with moderate tolerance. They also have identified the most susceptible varieties, which is another goal of our program. The Australians have been able to obtain better resistance by combining sources of partial resistance. The other difficulty is the large genotype X environment interaction with this disease, which makes field screening much more difficult. Thus, much of our effort has gone into perfecting a reliable greenhouse and field screening methods, and we have recently made advances in getting higher disease levels by vernalizing and water stressing the plants and rating them at the boot stage rather than at the seedling stage. Unlike the previous 3 year cycle, we have also concentrated on F. culmorum rather than F. pseudograminearium. This species is also widespread in the PNW and gaps needed to be filled in.

Improving Spring Wheat Varieties for the Pacific Northwest (pdf)
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 spring club wheat was released in 2020, Hedge Cl+. Foundation and registered seed of hard red spring Net Cl+ was produced and sold in 2020. 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 92% of certified soft white spring wheat production acres in Washington in 2020. 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 with over 160,000 acres planted. Glee, Chet, and Alum are leading dryland hard red spring wheat varieties, and Net CL+ has been rapidly adopted. WSU spring wheat varieties collectively were planted on 70% of the certified spring wheat production acres in Washington in 2020. 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 (pdf)
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 (pdf)
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.

Evaluation of WSU wheat breeding lines for management of Hessian fly and development of DNA markers for resistance breeding (pdf)
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 2020. 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 and approximately 80 winter wheat varieties. NEW DNA markers that allow diagnostic tracking of an undocumented spring wheat resistance source were developed.

A Genetic Arsenal for Drought Tolerance, Getting to the Root of the Problem (pdf)
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. Only a 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 aromatics including lignin monomers to the Ralph lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 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 attempted to implement drought studies using the Phenospex drought spotter in the wheat greenhouse, but had technical issues and then had to abandon work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, we focused efforts on molecular and in silico approaches to understanding two key enzymes that regulate lignin biosynthesis: CAD and COMT.

Breeding Wheat Varieties With Efficient Control of ROS Production (pdf)
Executive summary: This project aims to advance the toolbox for breeding drought and heat-tolerant wheat varieties. Our approach is based on the fact that harsh environmental conductions, including heat and drought, increase the production of free radicals also known as Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS). ROS diminishes the yield by damaging cells inside plant body. Plants alleviate the ROS damages using so-called “scavenging” mechanisms. Varieties with higher scavenging activity would yield better in hot and dry climates. We want to identify genetic markers with more efficient ROS scavenging and introduce these markers into breeding programs. Previously, our laboratory developed a technique for measuring ROS scavenging under the greenhouse condition. In Year 1 (growth season 2019) the suitability of our technique for analysis of material in the field was tested using 14 spring wheat varieties in Lind, Moses Lake, and Spillman farms. We found that our technique detected variability of the ROS scavenging in the field-grown material. One of the tested varieties, Kelse, was amongst varieties with more efficient ROS scavenging. In Year 2 we collaborated with Dr. Pumphrey to phenotype ROS scavenging in 180 RILs of the biparental population Kelse x Scarlet in Lind. This RIL population has been genotyped. It means we can use this material to identify genetic markers of efficient ROS scavenging. The material was collected on May 29 when the maximum day temperature reached 88°F. Despite delays caused by COVID-19 pandemics, we completed the measurements. The results demonstrate significant variability of ROS scavenging activity in the population.

Developing Washington Wheat with Stable Falling Numbers (FN) through Resistance to Preharvest Sprouting and LMA (pdf)
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 two main causes of low FN. The project identified cultivars with low FN problems through FN testing of the WSU cereal variety trials. Preharvest sprouting and LMA testing results were provided to the WSU and USDA breeding programs to enable selection from improved FN. Genes or loci associated with preharvest sprouting and LMA tolerance were identified by mapping using greenhouse and field-testing results. We have identified molecular markers linked to LMA and PHS resistance to allow selection in early breeding lines. We improved LMA testing methods. This is the final report for the FN project. A new proposal was not submitted. However, Dr. Steber would like to continue to present research plans and achievements during the annual Wheat Research Review.

Intelligent Prediction and Association Tool to Facilitate Wheat Breeding (pdf)
Executive summary: We updated one software package, released a new software package, 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 MMAP. The manuscript of update GAPIT (version 3) is under review by Genomics, Proteomics and Bioinformatics. The manuscript is released to public b preprint. The MMAP was published by Bioinformatics.

View the 2020-2021 WSU Wheat & Barley Research Reports to the Washington Grain Commission Full Report (pdf)

2019-2020 Research Report

Plant Protection

Variety Selection & Testing


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