New CWRS wheat coming with less DON when hit by fusarium head blight

BW980 almost didn’t make it because in one year of testing, its gluten strength was lower 
than the check variety, prompting another year of testing

Richard Cuthbert’s patience and persistence paid off culminating with the recommendation for registration of his new Canada Western Red Spring wheat that accumulates less DON (deoxynivalenol), when infected with fusarium head blight. The Prairie Recommending Committee for Wheat, Rye and Triticale gave BW980 a thumbs up at its annual meeting in Winnipeg Mar. 2.

A new Canada Western Red Spring (CWRS) wheat that accumulates less deoxynivalenol (DON), the mycotoxin sometimes produced after a fusarium head blight infection, is being recommended for registration.

It took an extra year of testing, but at its annual meeting in Winnipeg Mar. 2 the Prairie Recommending Committee for Wheat, Rye and Triticale (PRCWRT) gave a thumbs up to BW980, developed by Richard Cuthbert, an Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada wheat breeder at Swift Current, Sask.

It’s good news for western farmers. FHB, which has been moving west from Manitoba, hurts wheat yields and quality. Wet conditions last summer resulted in widespread FHB infections in wheat and especially in durum wheat.

Although the committee’s endorsement was delayed, the fact that it did come demonstrates the flexibility and effectiveness of the PRCWRT process, said Cuthbert, whose new Canada Western Hard White Spring (CWHWS), was also recommended for registration.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is expected to register both varieties, a prerequisite to commercialization.

The seed company that will multiply and sell the varieties will be selected next month, Cuthbert said. It takes a few years before there’s enough seed to sell to farmers. In the meantime, BW980 will be closely monitored because Cuthbert suspects its carries the SM1 gene, which makes the variety resistant to orange blossom wheat midge.

“If it is an SM1, it will have to go through a varietal blending process,” he said, which means mixing BW980 with a midge-susceptible variety to create a refuge and delay midge tolerance to the SM1 gene. “So that may delay it a little bit, but I think if the seed company wants to get it to market there are some things we can do to speed it up.”

Cuthbert expects BW980 will be popular with farmers not only because of reduced DON levels, but because it has a “strong MR” (moderately resistant) rating to fusarium head blight, yields four per cent more than Carberry, has a strong disease package and resists lodging.

“I think it (BW980) could have a fit on a number of areas across the Prairies,” he said.

“The FHB (tolerance) will be attractive for Saskatchewan and Manitoba growers and… it shows resistance to leaf rust, stem rest, stripe rust, (has) intermediate resistance to common bunt and resistance to loose smut. I think it will be a hit.

“Farmers who are growing Brandon right now, if they are looking for midge resistance and a little bit better FHB resistance and even stronger straw I think you could be a fit there.”

The PRCWRT suspected a year ago BW980 could be popular with growers. That’s why it had reservations about recommending the variety for registration at its 2016 annual meeting in Saskatoon. Following two years of field trials the variety met the high end-use quality standards for the CWRS wheat class, but in the third year BW980’s gluten strength fell below that of Carberry — the check variety at the low end of acceptable gluten strength for the premium CWRS class.

Cuthbert tabled his request for the PRCWRT’s endorsement a year ago and tested BW980 for a fourth year and he’s glad he did. BW980’s gluten strength in 2016 was higher than that of Carberry, resulting in BW980 being recommended for registration this year. Cuthbert suspects Carberry had much stronger gluten strength than BW980 in 2015 because it was a dry year, there wasn’t much FHB or midge pressure.

“It just goes to show the flexibility of the (merit-based registration) system,” Cuthbert said in an interview following the meeting. “If it (BW980) had been weak (in gluten strength) again I would’ve thrown it out. We need to protect CWRS as a premium class. But this shows the system works even though it has some kinks sometimes.”

The PRCWRT consists of experts who make up three “teams” that assess agronomy, plant pathology and in the case of milling wheat, end-use quality. Each team reviews data applicable to their area of expertise collected from trials. If each team decides the variety meets the required standards the new variety is automatically recommended for registration.

If at least one team doesn’t support a variety for registration the variety’s proponent can make the case before the committee as a whole. Then a 23-person cultivar voting panel, made up of PRCWRT members, representing a cross-section of the wheat, rye and triticale value chain secretly vote one of three ways — support, object or abstain. If a majority votes to support, the committee as a whole recommends the new variety for registration.

The PRCWRT’s goal is to ensure wheat farmers and wheat users get new varieties that perform as well as existing ones.

About the author


Allan Dawson

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.



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