Basically, he wants more gain per breeding cycle to speed up the process from plant to commercialized variety. “We want a bigger program and more varieties with heritable traits.”

The program at OSU has come a long way. “The wheat breeding program is now three times bigger than it was in the 1990s,” he said.

Breeders are looking at multiple factors including, phenomics, genomics and reverse genetics—going back to rye segments to find materials.

“We want to learn how to add genes that are already available instead of looking for new ones.” Carver said transgenic wheat currently faces an acceptance problem but cisgenics, in which genes are transferred from a closely-related organism, may have a place.

He said breeders need to look at multiple options, including gene transfer, double haploids, marker assisted selection and reverse genetics to improve wheat yield potential. Hybrids also should play a role.

He said wheat faces some serious threats, including wheat blast, a disease found in Brazil in 1985 and more recently in Kentucky.

A potential shortage of phosphorus also poses a serious threat. “Reserves are near exhausted. We have a five-year known supply and 16 percent of phosphorus use is for wheat. We need to increase the resource efficiency.”

He said stem rust is another potential problem. “We have the genetics in place but forms of the disease in other parts of the world could have an effect on our varieties. We need multiple genes for resistance.”

Carver said wheat is capable of producing more than the 35-bushel per acre average in Oklahoma. Part of the solution to better yields will be better management and part will be a sharper focus on breeding from public and private companies.

A little more rain would also help.


Also of interest:

Bee research sheds new light on faltering colonies

Texas A&M research studies value of cover crops

Corn and drought not supporting wheat prices