Low Falling Numbers with Camille Steber & Kim Garland-Campbell

Fig. 1. Sponge cakes fall with increasing alpha-amylase from sprouting– image from WWQL, USDA-ARS, Pullman

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Show Notes & Resources Mentioned:

Contact Information:

Contact Camille Steber by email at csteber@wsu.edu or by phone at 509-335-2887. Contact Kim Garland-Campbell by email at kimberly.campbell@ars.usda.gov or by phone at 509-335-0582.

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Episode Transcription:

[ Music ]

Drew Lyon: Hello! And 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. We have weekly discussions with researchers from WSU and the USDA-ARS to provide you with insights into the latest research on wheat and barley production.

[ Music ]

Drew Lyon: This week we will be discussing low falling numbers. Our first guest is Dr. Camille Steber, Molecular Geneticist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wheat Health, Genetics, and Quality Unit. Hi, Camille!

Dr. Camille Steber: Hello!

Drew Lyon: And our second guest is Dr. Kim Garland-Campbell. Kim is the USDA-ARS Club Wheat Breeder. Hello, Kim!

Dr. Kim Garland-Campell: Hi!

Drew Lyon: So we didn’t have a big problem with low falling numbers here in 2017, yet it was quite a problem last year. Is the problem going away now?

Dr. Camille Steber: I’m afraid this problem isn’t going to go away of its own accord. We’ve had to make this a breeding priority. If we do our jobs right, you’ll probably never know that we succeeded because when we have a problem year, you won’t have problems with low falling numbers.

Dr. Kim Garland-Campbell: Mm-hmm.

Drew Lyon: Ok, so do farmers need to worry about it then or is it something they should take off their worry-list?

Dr. Kim Garldand-Campbell: I think that they do need to worry about it still. Well, I don’t want to give them more things to worry about. But I think it’s something they need to consider when selecting varieties, yeah.

Dr. Camille Steber: And we have the SteberLab.org website where they can look up how varieties they’re interested in have done for falling number in the past.

Drew Lyon: Could you spell that for us?

Dr. Camille Steber: That’s S-T-E-B as in boy, E-R, lab, L-A-B, dot O-R-G.

Drew Lyon: Ok, so what priority should farmers place on this particular trait when they’re selecting varieties, Kim?

Dr. Kim Garland-Cambell: Well, I actually heard a farmer the other day tell me, you know, you can’t spray for low falling number but you can spray for stripe rust. So I think, especially if you live in an area where you get a lot of temperature fluctuations, some of the regions where we’ve seen a lot of falling number are like Mayview or Almira is another area that it is something you should take a look at.

Drew Lyon: Ok. So what are the challenges to breeding for low falling number or to prevent low falling number?

Dr. Camille Steber: The problem is that it’s actually a complicated trait because it’s really more than one problem that triggers low falling numbers. It can either be pre-harvest sprouting, which is when you get germination of the grain on the mother plant when it rains before harvest. And the other is this late maturity alpha-amylase, which is a developmental defect that occurs when you have a big temperature fluctuation during late grain filling.

Dr. Kim Garland-Campbell: And growers, I think, are used to the idea that rains during harvest can cause problems, but we didn’t realize we had such a problem with LMA in our wheat germplasm until last year, until 2016. And so now we’re conducting a massive screening effort to try and, you know, identify breeding lines that are more resistant. Right now we’re screening 40,000 heads that we harvested last summer, in spring and winter wheat.

Drew Lyon: Ok. So if our listeners out there want to learn more about low falling number, are there, where are some places we can send them for information? We mentioned that, the Steber Lab, and what was that address?

Dr. Camille Steber: Website? SteberLab.org.

Drew Lyon: Ok.

Dr. Camille Steber: And if you look for the falling number drop-down box, that’ll take you to our falling numbers website. You can also look at the small grains website. So we’re in process now, Kim and I, of doing a statistical analysis of the data over the years. So I think the small grains website will soon have a a tool for looking at how stable the falling numbers are of a variety you’re interested in.

Dr. Kim Garland-Campbell: Right. Yeah, we want to incorporate it into the variety selection tool.

Drew Lyon: Ok. So let people take a look and if that’s a priority for them help them select that. Well, excellent. Well, thank you, Camille! Thank you, Kim!

Dr. Kim Garland-Campbell: Thank you!

Dr. Camille Steber: Thank you, Drew!

Drew Lyon: Thanks for listening to the WSU Wheat Beat podcast. If you have questions for us that you’d like to hear addressed on future episodes, please email me at drew.lyon@wsu.edu. You can find us online at smallgrains.wsu.edu. You can also find us on social media on Facebook and Twitter @WSUSmallGrains. Subscribe to this show through iTunes or your favorite podcasting app. The WSU Wheat Beat podcast is a production of CAHNRS Communications in the College of Agricultural Human and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University. I’m Drew Lyon; we’ll see you next week.