Breeding better wheat

Michigan State University's wheat breeding and genetics program is helping to develop the best new varieties of wheat.

October 1, 2017 - Author: James Dau

A wheat field that is ready for harvest.

Ensuring that Michigan farmers have the best tools to meet emerging challenges and continue to produce wheat at record-setting levels lies at the heart of the Michigan State University wheat breeding and genetics program.

To develop the best new varieties of wheat and get them in the hands of farmers as quickly as possible, the team blends traditional plant breeding with cutting-edge genomic technology.

Through genomic selection, breeders can read and analyze the genotype – the collection of genetic information – of the new varieties they develop as early as the first cross. This helps predict in the lab how they will perform long before they make it to the field.

In addition to breeding new varieties, the team conducts research on wheat genetics, adding new genetic information to the pool of breeding resources. They are working to clone new genes for disease resistance from goatgrass. They are also making progress toward discovering genes that could increase grain yield by maximizing the energy generated through photosynthesis.

  • Michigan ranks 12th nationally in wheat production, with over 600,000 acres and 8,000 farmers adding $388 million to the state’s economy.

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