Talking Club Wheat with Dr. Kim Garland-Campbell

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USDA-ARS Wheat Health, Genetics, and Quality Research
The Origins of Club Wheat

Contact information:
Dr. Kim Garland-Campbell,

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Episode transcription:


Drew Lyon: Hello, welcome to the WSU Wheat Beat podcast. I’m your host, Drew Lyon, and I want to thank you for joining me as we explore the world of small grains production and research at Washington State University. In each episode, I speak with researchers from WSU and the USDA-ARS to provide you with insights into the latest research on wheat and barley production.

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My guest today is Dr. Kim Garland-Campbell. Kim is a research geneticist in the USDA-ARS Wheat Health, Genetics, and Quality Research Unit in Pullman. Kim has been a wheat breeder since 1992 and has been in Pullman since 1999. Her research focuses on genetic improvement of wheat to reduce grower risk and improve marketability and end-use quality. Her research emphasizes the use of quantitative genetics for analysis and control of genotype x environment interaction (GxE). She has the distinction of being the only wheat breeder who has a primary focus on club wheat.

Hello, Kim.

Dr. Kim Garland-Campbell: Hi, Drew. How are you doing?

Drew Lyon: I’m doing well. So, Kim, your program received $142,500 from the Washington Grain Commission in the current fiscal year. Can you tell me how these funds allow you to do things that might not be possible without that additional support?

Dr. Kim Garland-Campbell: Well, you know, I’m a USDA wheat breeder, so we get some base support in addition to our salaries, but the money that I get, which is about $93,000 from the [Washington Grain] Commission for the Club Wheat Breeding program, allows us to really expand that program and do more locations. We plant about 14 locations, we don’t plant them all–we work together with [the] winter wheat program here and with variety testing. And also to actually have a full cultivar development program that brings finished cultivars out to farmers.

I think if we didn’t have that extra funding, we would have to stop short of that. And in order to keep the club wheat acreage really up and competitive, it’s important to finish the cultivars.

Drew Lyon: Okay. And the other portion of the funds?

Dr. Kim Garland-Campbell: The other money, which is about 50,000, is used for our cold tolerance screening. So, each year we rate winter wheat germplasm in growth chambers–well, they’re actually programable freeze chambers up at the greenhouse and we’ve been doing this for many years and the methods that we use were initially developed by Dan Skinner, who was a USDA colleague, and we rate all of the variety trials. We are actually rating hard spring variety trials also. And then, now we’re also rating the winter barley trials, and we rate the all the germplasm from Arron Carter’s program and from my program.

I reached out to Oregon a few times; I’m kind of hoping they’ll send me some stuff in the future. We rate the western regionals, too. And then we provide this data back out to breeders, usually in July or August, and then the variety trial data comes just a little bit later. But over the years, we’ve had enough cold winters like last winter that we’ve gotten good field ratings and we’ve been able to see that our ratings on artificial freeze tests are very highly correlated with the actual field survival. So, I think this is pretty valuable data that goes out and there’s not a good way to collect it otherwise.

Drew Lyon: Okay. And it helps your program in club breeding as well as multiple other programs, right?

Dr. Kim Garland-Campbell: It really does. Right. Yeah.

You know, most of the club wheat acreage–it starts like over in Douglas County and it kind of runs along Route 2 down as far as Ritzville and then comes down, sometimes it’ll come down all the way to Highway 26, and you see some club over on the Palouse–like often when I’m driving between here and Steptoe Butte, I see club on the road, sometimes a little bit down around Genesee.

And you know the Pacific Northwest is the only place in the world that produces club wheat commercially and we sell 90% of it to Japan. And Japan really values it highly. In fact, I think it’s been about six years ago the Washington Grain Commission assisted USDA and the Japanese Flour Millers Association to develop a technical exchange. So, we interact frequently during the year and they evaluate our upper level lines in their systems to confirm that they meet their expectations. The good news about that is they all have. They all do. So, the selection that I’m doing for that club wheat quality matches what the customer wants.

Club wheat is about 8 to 10% of the winter wheat crop here and it’s a small part of the spring wheat crop. But the spring club wheat varieties are developed by Mike Pumphrey, but it’s a critical part because it keeps our high-quality, high-value customers coming back and nobody else in the world produces this quality of wheat that we have here. So, I’m really proud to be kind of the person–I think 95% of the club wheat that’s grown out there came out of my program. I’m proud of that.

Drew Lyon: I know when I drive around with somebody from outside the area and we see a field of club wheat, they’ll go, “what’s that?”

Dr. Kim Garland-Campbell: Yeah, they all look at it. Most other wheat breeders that say that too. Like, what is that?

Drew Lyon: So, what are some of the things you’re focusing on in your breeding efforts in club wheat? What are those characteristics that the industry really likes to see in club wheat that you’re working on?

Dr. Kim Garland-Campbell: Well, you know, you mentioned that I work on genotype x environment interaction, and so you always have to think about where it’s grown and most of the club wheat is actually grown in the lower rainfall wheat fallow area. And so, obviously high grain yields are really important to farmers, but before you can get to harvest, you need the wheat to come up out of the ground and it needs to survive the winter. That’s kind of how we got into the cold tolerance project. And then it needs to withstand infections of stripe rust and soilborne disease.

The biggest diseases we worry about our strawbreaker foot rot or eyespot and snow mold up in Douglas County–we really have to have snow mold tolerance for them. And then over here on the Palouse, we see more eyespot. We also work on Fusarium crown rot, which is more of a dryland problem. But we have found actually that both eyespot and Fusarium crown rot are present everywhere and which disease is more prevalent depends kind of on the weather that year–if you get more rain you’ll see more eyespot, but if it’s drier and more drought, you’ll see more crown rot and the symptoms are really similar. So, we kind of breed for both.

But just last year actually, I refocused the program to really concentrate in that Route 2 corridor. So, we added a location at Hartline and we also have a second location up there closer to Elmira now, and we’ve got two locations near Waterville with Arron Carter, and we plant next to the variety trial near Douglas, and then I run the Harrington location. We also plant at Ritzville- Kahlotus.

This year, actually today, my crew is planting Lind because it wasn’t possible to plant at Lind until we got a little bit of rain. So, we’ll get a late seeded Lind location this year. And then we also have locations at Farmington, Pullman, Genesee, Idaho, Pendleton, and Central Ferry. So, that’s our higher rainfall locations. We use those quite a bit for yield and yield potential, but more for the stripe rust resistance.

Drew Lyon: When you go from Waterville to Genesee, you’ve covered a lot of different environments haven’t you?

Dr. Kim Garland-Campbell: Yeah, that’s true. And Pendleton, too.

Drew Lyon: So, a wide range of areas. I was at the variety testing plots up near Waterville this past summer, and I think one of the growers was saying they had like 180 days under snow cover or something like that. That’s amazing.

Dr. Kim Garland-Campbell: Yeah, last year was the worst year I’ve ever seen for snow mold and a few of the farmers were saying it had been the worst since, I think, the sixties or something. So, yeah, it was really devastating.

Drew Lyon: Yeah, lots of things to keep track of when you’re trying to breed a cultivar that can work over all those different environments.

Dr. Kim Garland-Campbell: Yeah, that’s true. That’s true.

Drew Lyon: So, you spoke a little bit about the cold tolerance, but how do you work that artificial approach into your field? You said they’re correlated pretty well, but do you use the artificial to make decisions on what goes into the field?

Dr. Kim Garland-Campbell: Yeah, well, so most of the wheat that comes out of the winter wheat program here is very cold tolerant. My program, over the years we’ve worked on it, so it’s become more cold tolerant than it was when I got here. The wheat that is bred by some of the companies, actually the Syngenta wheat, and then also Limagrain, some can be good, some can be bad. It just goes back and forth.

And Oregon tends to be less tolerant, which you would expect. And so, I think the value of our screening basically gives signals to the breeders to tell them, you know, keep this one or drop that one. And in my case, and in Arron Carter’s case, there aren’t very many we have to drop because they’re not tolerant. But we do need to know which ones those are and get them out of there because we don’t really have another way–I mean, unless we get a bad winter like last winter, which we don’t get everywhere every year–so it’s really the only way we can discern it.

And I actually think there’s–well, I know–there’s a relationship between spring green up and cold tolerance. So, our most cold tolerant lines that we have here in the Pacific Northwest, like Eltan and some of Arron’s, if they’re grown down in Oregon and it gets warm enough to grow, they just sit there and act like, “no, no, no, I’m not ready yet.” And it’s because they’re waiting for the right photoperiod, the correct day length to grow, which is one of the drivers of early spring growth.

And so, in this area, we’ve managed to get the kind of day length response and the cold tolerance really highly associated. So, it’s a little harder for us if we want to have a line that greens up a little earlier in the spring to also to select for cold tolerance, you know.

Now down in Kansas and Nebraska and Colorado, they have real[ly] cold winters there, you know, and their responses are different. And so, we’ve done a lot of crossing to Colorado wheat, especially to try and keep the cold tolerance but move the photoperiod requirement a little earlier so we can get lines that take advantage of our warmer spring temperatures that we’ve been having lately and get going, you know, rather than sitting around.

Drew Lyon: It seems like the last dozen years every year is totally different from the year before.

Dr. Kim Garland-Campbell: I know, it’s a real challenge.

Drew Lyon: It is a big challenge.

Okay. I know that you’re a valuable part of the wheat breeding effort at WSU. Appreciate your work and thanks for sharing your information on your club wheat breeding program and your cold tolerance program.

Dr. Kim Garland-Campbell: Well, thanks a lot, Drew. It’s always fun to come over and talk.

Drew Lyon:


Drew Lyon:

Thanks for joining us and listening to the WSU Wheat Beat podcast. If you like what you hear don’t forget to subscribe and leave a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast app. If you have questions or topics you’d like to hear on future episodes, please email me at drew.lyon — that’s — ( You can find us online at and on Facebook and Twitter [X] @WSUSmallGrains. The WSU Wheat Beat podcast is a production of CAHNRS Communications and the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University.

I’m Drew Lyon, we’ll see you next time.


The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed by guests of this podcast are their own and does not imply Washington State University’s endorsement.