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Wheat Midge Resistance: Most Significant Recent Advancement in Wheat Breeding Research

17 January 2012
University of Manitoba

CANADA - A research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada says the development of new wheat varieties resistant to insect damage has been the most significant recent advancement within the federal wheat breeding programme.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has been involved in the development of new wheat varieties for Canadian farmers for about 80 years and today between 70 and 75 per cent of the wheat varieties grown in western Canada have been derived from these breeding programmes.

"Wheat Cultivar Development within Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada" was the topic discussed yesterday as part of the University of Manitoba's Advanced Plant Science Seminar series.

Dr. Gavin Humphreys, a research scientist with the Cereal Research Centre in Winnipeg, says the latest project that's most important that's coming on stream in terms of crop production right now is the deployment of improved insect resistance or wheat midge resistance in new varieties.

Dr. Gavin Humphreys said: "Before this insect resistance was deployed farmers had to spray their wheat with a rather nasty insecticide to protect it from the wheat midge and the wheat midge would cause at least 15 percent yield loss, sometimes higher as well as impact on the end-use quality.

"If you're going to make a lot of money exporting wheat you need to have high end-use quality of your wheat so that insect could damage that and therefore damage our export potential."

Dr Humphreys continued: "By building this into the varieties we've not only eliminated the need for use of those pesticides which is better for the environment and saves farmers money but we've protected the wheat and thereby protected the quality and its value for the producers and the exporters."

Dr. Humphreys notes there are about six varieties of wheat that are resistant to wheat midge damage that are currently available.

He says that includes five varieties in the Canada Western Red Spring Wheat class which is the largest wheat class representing about 75 per cent of production and there's also a Canada Extra Strong wheat cultivar that is resistant to the midge.

TheCropSite News Desk

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