Progress Dealing with Fusarium Head Blight in Wheat

CANADA - A wheat breeder with the University of Manitoba reports sciestists are making progress in improving the resistance of wheat to fusarium head blight, according to Bruce Cochrane.
calendar icon 3 September 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

Fusarium head blight infects primarily cereal crops, reducing yield and producing a mycotoxin which reduces end use quality.

Dr Anita Brûlé-Babel, a wheat breeder with the University of Manitoba, says over the past couple of years we've seen two or three new spring wheat varieties that show improved resistance but with winter wheat progress has been a little slower.

Dr Anita Brûlé-Babel-University of Manitoba

The resistances that we have to fusarium head blight are not 100 per cent and so that is always an issue when we're working with this particular disease.

Even though we have sources of resistance, they definitely are not immune by any stretch so we're in a process of having to combine multiple sources of resistance into a genotype in order to get an acceptable level of field response.

Obviously that is quite complicated.

The more genes that we have to work with, the more time and effort that it takes to get those combinations in.

The other thing that we've struggled with to some extent is the sources of resistance that we have had available are not in very well adapted genetic backgrounds which means that often when we move those genes into the types that are adapted for western Canada we get other undesirable characteristics and we need to break those linkages so that's been a challenge as well.

The other factor is the pathogen and the disease itself are quite difficult to evaluate either in the greenhouse or on the field scale.

A lot of resources are required to do a good job of evaluating how your plants are responding and this again causes delays in terms of getting genetic progress because we need to be able to evaluate our material properly as well.

Nonetheless Dr Brûlé-Babel says plant breeders are working to improve fusarium head blight response and she anticipates better material coming through the system with good adaptation and better levels of resistance.

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