Wheat School: Could winter durum reduce fusarium risk?

(Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

Winter durum wheat isn’t grown in Western Canada, but the possible benefits have breeders working on developing it.

As Jamie Larsen with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Lethbridge discusses in this Wheat School episode, winter durum could perform well during dry years, and face reduced fusarium head blight (FHB) risk compared with spring durum.

“We are really starting to build a cold tolerance. As parents we are using winter bread wheat sourced from a western Canadian winter wheat breeding program, so ones that existed in Saskatchewan at the U of S, but then also in Lethbridge. We are also trying to incorporate fusarium head blight resistance into the material. That’s one of the major challenges”, explains Larsen. “In spring durum right now, the idea behind winter durum right now, is if we can build the cold tolerance is it can provide another high value crop that may avoid some of the fusarium head blight risks just by flowering earlier.”

As he notes, they’re focusing on FHB and stripe rust resistance.

“What we’ve noticed with the lines we’ve brought in is typically there is some resistance to stripe rust, but they do get it. One of the calling cards for spring durum is that it is stripe rust resistant. So we are trying to incorporate that,” notes Larsen.

He adds that as they continue to build their winter durum breeding program they are going to work on other diseases such as leaf rust, stem rust, bunt, and leaf spot resistance.

To learn more about winter durum breeding, and how it flourishes in a very wet, then dry year like the prairies have seen in 2017, check out our latest Wheat School episode:

Related: Wheat School: Making a Case for Perennial Wheat