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New Club Wheat Offers High Quality and Disease Resistance

By Kathryn Barry Stelljes
September 1, 1998

Wheat growers will be better able to meet the demand for spongy Asian cakes with Coda, a new wheat variety from the Agricultural Research Service. That's because Coda resists strawbreaker footrot, one of the most devastating fungal diseases in the Pacific Northwest. Washington, Idaho and Oregon produce most of the nation's club wheat, and exports of this wheat supply virtually all Asia's club needs.

Coda is the first club wheat variety that has both the disease resistance and quality bakers and consumers demand. Club wheat is a type of soft white wheat that has less protein and more compact grain heads than typical soft white wheat.

Japan and other Pacific Rim countries prize a special mixture of club and soft white wheat called Western White for making sponge cakes and other confections. Japan recently increased the percentage of club wheat in the mixture from 10 to 20 percent.

ARS wheat breeder Robert Allan began working in 1974 with the gene that confers strawbreaker footrot resistance. He released the first resistant varieties in 1988: Madsen, a soft white wheat, and Hyak, a club. Madsen has since become one of the most popular wheats in the Pacific Northwest. Growers have saved an estimated $30 million in five years due to reduced pesticide use.

Hyak was not as popular; scientists didn't realize that it contained an unwanted gene that reduces soft wheat flour quality. Coda does not have this gene and also yields more than Hyak.

Allan retired from his Pullman, Wash., laboratory in 1996, but continues to work as a collaborator. The name Coda, which describes the end of a musical composition, was chosen because Coda is Allan's last variety release in his 40-year career with ARS. He released 150 wheat germplasm lines and 9 varieties. His varieties are currently grown on 1 million acres. ARS is the principal research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Scientific contact: Robert E. Allan, ARS Wheat Genetics, Quality, Physiology and Disease Research Unit, Pullman, WA 99164-6420, phone (509) 335-3632, fax (509) 335-2553,

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