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Winter Wheat Gets New Resistance to Hessian Fly

By Hank Becker
August 22, 1997

Soft red winter wheat will have improved resistance to the Hessian fly, the grain's most destructive pest, thanks to a new cultivar and eight new germplasm lines. Wheat breeders will use the new germplasm to develop improved wheat cultivars adapted to the eastern and southern states.

In recent years, the Hessian fly (Mayetiola destructor) has ravaged Southeastern wheat crops. The region's warmer climate allows up to six generations of flies to breed each season. The pest caused an estimated $28 million in damage to the Georgia wheat crop in 1989.

But scientists have come up with a new cultivar, named Grant, and eight new germplasm lines with resistance to the fly. Grant has been field-tested in Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Ohio.

Entomologist Roger Ratcliffe with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service cooperated in the studies with researchers at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. Ratcliffe is based at the ARS Crop Production and Pest Control Research Unit in West Lafayette. A story about the new wheats appears in the August issue of Agricultural Research magazine. The story can also be viewed at the World Wide Web at:


Grant offers farmers high yields and improved cold hardiness and disease resistance. Besides leaf rust and powdery mildew, it resists wheat soilborne mosaic, wheat spindle streak mosaic and take-all.

The new breeding lines--Carol, Erin, Flynn, Iris, Joy, Karen, Lola and Molly--were developed by individually transferring eight different genes for Hessian fly resistance into Newton, a commercial hard red winter wheat susceptible to the pest. In seedling tests, the new germplasm lines were resistant to one or more of four biotypes of the Hessian fly.

Seed is available now from Purdue University and will be available in 1998 from the ARS National Small Grains Collection at Aberdeen, Idaho.

Scientific contact: Roger Ratcliffe, ARS Crop Production and Pest Control Research Unit, West Lafayette, Ind., phone (765) 494-4606, fax 494-5105,