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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

1 - New Technology and Strategies for Wheat Improvement
2 - Genetic Enhancement for Resistance to Biotic & Abiotic Stresses in Hard Winter Wheat
New Technology and Strategies for Wheat Improvement


Wheat rusts are a chronic and intractable problem in wheat production worldwide. Our research is focused on developing new resistant varieties with durable resistance to leaf rust, stripe rust, and stem rust. We are also studying the mechanisms of virulence or avirulence in the leaf rust pathogen. This may help us design more effective control strategies in the future.



Hessian fly can decimate young wheat stands and also causes lodging in adult wheat plants. Our unit serves regional wheat breeding programs by screening thousands of lines annually for resistance to Hessian fly. We have released numerous new Hessian fly resistance genes and developed molecular markers to make breeding easier and more efficient.  Basic studies of the virulence of this insect are focusing on secreted proteins from the salivary glands of the larvae.

*Hessian Fly


Karnal bunt (KB) is a fungal disease of wheat that infects the grain. Over 70 countries have quarantines against importation of wheat with KB. Research is needed to support international deregulation and disease management. Our unit is working with a consortium of Land Grant Universities to:   breed for resistance and to develop molecular markers for marker-assisted selection.

Karnal Bunt


Fusarium head blight (also know as wheat scab) is a serious problem in the humid eastern portion of the hard winter wheat region. The fungus causes the grain to shrivel and produces DON toxin which can limit marketability of affected grain. Studies are focused on developing resistant germplasm and molecular markers for resistance genes. We are also studying the diversity and genetics of the pathogen to identify targets for resistance genes or fungicides.

Fusarium Head Blight


Previous KSU research has shown that heat stress is the number one limitation on wheat yields in Kansas. Heat during grain fill typically reduces yield potential by 50% and also decreases grain quality. In this photo of heat stressed wheat, a tolerant line from Australia on the left is compared to the intolerant Kansas cultivar Karl 92. Our objectives are to transfer heat tolerance to Kansas cultivars and to understand the various mechanisms of heat tolerance.

Heat Tolerance


Molecular markers are pieces of DNA that are tightly linked to important genes that we want in new cultivars. The photo shows five DNA marker “fingerprints” for five wheat varieties. Screening for the presence of molecular markers is often much easier and cheaper than traditional screening methods. Our unit hosts a new Cereal Genotyping Laboratory that serves regional wheat breeding programs by developing new molecular markers and using them for marker-assisted selection in wheat improvement programs.

*Marker-Assisted Selection

* Goes to a non-federal site
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Last Modified: 3/12/2010
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