Wheat Breeding Line a Perfect 10
Against Powdery Mildew
By Jill Lee
November 20, 1998
RALEIGH, N.C., Nov. 20--A new mildew-resistant wheat breeding stock has
surprised U.S. Department of Agriculture
plant pathologists by warding off every strain of powdery mildew in their
laboratory gauntlet. Previously, eight strains out of ten was the best any
wheat could do.
Bakery-bought cookies and cakes get their delicate texture from flour made
with soft red winter wheat, which grows east of the Mississippi. But powdery
mildew hits soft wheat types the hardest. This fungal disease costs wheat
growers between $2 million and $3 million annually, said plant pathologist
Steve Leath with USDAs Agricultural
Research Service in Raleigh, N.C. ARS is the chief research agency of USDA.
Enter NC 97BGTAB-10. Its the new breeding stock developed by
Leath--with the ARS
Research Unit--and his colleagues at North
Carolina State University and the University
To breed this perfect 10," the research team made traditional
breeding crosses with wheats hardy wild ancestors found in the Middle
Farmers wouldnt want to plant this new breeding stock, since it
doesnt yield as well as their favorite varieties and its flour is not as
soft, said Leath. But as a hybrid-parent in breeding programs, it
could make the wheat they favor stronger against powdery mildew.
scientists have long known about soft wheat farmers mildew problem.
Thats why they have been crossing U.S. varieties with tough,
mildew-resistant wild wheat from Eastern Europe and the Middle East to find
this winning genetic combination, Leath said.
The idea is to breed a hybrid with just enough of both the wild genes and
the U.S. softness and yield traits. Commercial seed companies can use the
breeding lines to build mildew resistance into their farmer-favored,
bakery-bound soft red wheat varieties.
Leaths university cooperators on NC 97BGTAB-10 are Jerry Johnson at
the University of Georgia, Athens; and
Paul Murphy at North Carolina State University, Raleigh.
Scientific contact: Steven Leath, plant pathologist, ARS Plant
Science Research Unit, Agricultural Research Service, USDA, Raleigh, N.C.,
phone (919) 515-6819, fax (919) 515-7716,