The Key to Beating Fusarium Head Blight

CANADA - A plant geneticist with the University of Manitoba says it'll take a combination of genetic traits to develop wheat varieties that are fully resistant to fusarium head blight, writes Bruce Cochrane.
calendar icon 10 September 2008
clock icon 3 minute read

Reports from Manitoba Agriculture indicate moist conditions at flowering created perfect conditions for disease development resulting in widespread fusarium head blight infection in Manitoba's hard red spring wheat crops.

University of Manitoba plant geneticist Dr. Anita Brûlé-Babel says the long term goal is to incorporate genetic resistance to this pathogen.

Dr. Anita Brûlé-Babel-University of Manitoba

The challenge to this has been that even the sources of genetic resistance that we have individually are not 100 percent and so the challenge is to really try and put combinations of resistance together to have a better package.

After much much research by many many scientists we now have quite a number of well identified and fairly well characterized resistance genes in wheat germ plasm around the world.

The biggest challenge is to put them into our adapted wheats in combination, so multiple genes for resistance and combining more than one source of resistance and get those to express that resistance and also to re-establish the adaptation that we've already bred into our wheats.

That's a fairly big challenge.

We're now able to use molecular markers that are linked to these resistance genes to help us be more precise in our efforts but we still have a lot of challenges in terms of our screening technologies and our ability to truly identify good sources of resistance.

Dr. Brûlé-Babel says plant breeders are making progress and the proportion of materials with good levels of resistance now is much higher than five years ago.

However she notes we not only have fusarium to address, we also have to maintain the appropriate end use qualities and the right agronomic and disease resistance packages for the other diseases.

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