Wheat breeders are working to put a a "little muscle" into bread, in addition to helping producers get better yields, said a Texas Agricultural Experiment Station researcher.

Bread producers need stronger gluten flours, said Dr. Jackie Rudd, Experiment Station state wheat breeder in Amarillo. Gluten is the protein in wheat that allows bread to expand and hold the shape.

At a meeting of the Wheat Quality Council, Hayden Wands, director of procurement for Sara Lee Corp. said flours with a stronger gluten are needed for breads to ensure they will not squash during stacking on the grocery shelves, Rudd said. Wands also talked about the many new bread products the company offers with ingredients such as blueberries, which further accentuate the need for stronger flours, Rudd said.

In recent tests across the state, Experiment Station wheats have ranked among the top performers when tested for protein content (gluten), seed size and test weight (milling attributes), dough strength (baking), and disease resistance and yields, he said.

In addition, Texas Cooperative Extension wheat variety trials across the state have as many as five Texas A&M University system wheats ranked in the top 10. For complete results of the variety trials, go to http://amarillo.tamu.edu/programs/agronomy/.

Rodney Mosier, Texas Wheat Producers Board executive vice president, said the board's priorities for their research dollars used to be focused mainly on developing wheats that were higher yielding, drought-tolerant varieties. These wheats had average baking qualities and disease resistance.

In recent years, the board's priorities have changed, Mosier said. Funding now includes a priority for higher milling and baking qualities with improved disease and insect resistance.

"The board has been very pleased with the funding it has provided for ongoing research with Texas A&M, which has provided excellent results," he said. "Just this past year, the Wheat Quality Council recognized Texas A&M for producing wheats with excellence in milling and baking qualities."

These wheat lines are now being marketed to producers, Rudd said.

Newly released are TAM 304, a good disease resistant irrigated variety has been licensed to Scott Seed Co. of Hereford; and TAM 203, showing disease resistance and excellence statewide, has been licensed to AgriPro Wheat in Vernon, he said.

The Experiment Station has had two other recent releases that are topping experiment trial data, Rudd said. TAM 111, the leading grown variety in the High Plains for both dryland and irrigated wheat, is licensed to AgriPro; and TAM 112, with excellent dryland yields and greenbug resistance, is licensed to Watley Seed Co. of Spearman.

Experiment Station wheat varieties have long been known for excellence in dryland yields, he said. However, in the past five or six years, a concentrated effort of increased testing and quality monitoring by Dr. Lloyd Rooney at the Wheat Quality Lab in College Station has improved the baking and milling quality.

"Our reputation for good dryland yields has been maintained, but now we are recognized for excellent bread-baking quality," Rudd said.

That doesn't mean the producer's needs for high yields, disease resistance and pest resistance are taking a back seat, though, he said.

Rudd said the newest Texas varieties ere discussed at this year's field day for Great Plains wheat breeders in Fort Collins as being the best in leaf rust and stripe rust resistance.

That is due in part, he said, to the dedicated work of Dr. Ravindra Devkota, a research scientist from Bushland, who has spent significant time making wheat selections in South Texas where these rusts start.

"That's why our material is not just good across the High Plains, but also the rest of the state," Rudd said. "Texas A&M varieties are grown on more than 50 percent of the High Plains, but much less in the rest of the state."

With the increased disease resistance, though, that figure will go up, he said, because the new experimental lines in the breeding plots are looking even better than what is now in the field.

"We have more good material than we can put into the marketplace," Rudd said. "It's an excellent problem to have. It's been nice to be able to discard some lines that are better than wheat we currently have, because we know what we have in the pipeline is even better.

"We hope this will lead to increased exports for Texas wheat," he said. "The idea is that importers of U.S. wheat will select Texas wheat based on quality rather than cheap price. The U.S. has consistently been the least-cost provider of wheat, but we want Texas wheats to be sought out for their milling and baking quality."

e-mail: skledbetter@ag.tamu.edu