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Wild grasses and man-made wheats advance research capabilities

Getting resistance to the latest biotype of greenbug or rust in wheat may require some bridge building.

Dr. Jackie Rudd, associate professor at the Texas A&M University System Agricultural Research and Extension Center and state wheat breeder, is looking at wild grass species and synthetic wheats for possible solutions.

"We're looking for new unique sources of resistance to various biotic and abiotic stresses," Rudd said. "I'm being forced to find broader gene pools to bring in the genetic variability I believe is necessary for the gene pool here."

Karnal bunt, new races of Hessian fly, new leaf rust, stripe rust and Russian wheat aphid, as well as the need for more drought tolerance present challenges, he said. Progress in traditional breeding has been slow due to limited genetic variability for these traits.

Two projects growing in the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station greenhouses in Vernon and Bushland are designed to increase the genetic variability. These projects are being funded by the Texas Wheat Producers Board.

"My preference is to cross wheat with wheat," Rudd said. "The best chance for success is to cross High Plains wheat with High Plains wheat. But to get genetic variability, you cross state lines or even into other countries. The next step would be to cross species, if the desired traits can't be obtained in a wheat-to-wheat cross."

A wild grass collection being mined for its genetics has 716 lines of wheat relative species. The grasses originated in Turkey and were collected in 1992 as a joint project between Texas A&M University and Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maiz y Trigo, (The International Maise and Wheat Improvement Center) better known as CIMMYT.

"This is a gold mine of untapped genetics," Rudd said. "They can be tapped directly through laboratory crosses, but it is difficult."

The researcher must pollinate from a wild species to a hexaploid wheat and then re
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Source:Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications


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