Pacific Northwest Spring Wheat Breeding and Genetics
Pacific Northwest spring wheat production in 2009 was 73.9 million bushels, valued at over $350,000,000. Spring wheat production in Washington State in 2009 was valued at over $125,000,000, with a total of 26.3 million bushels harvested from 585,000 acres (http://www.nass.usda.gov/). The Washington State University (WSU) spring wheat breeding program is focused on improving production options, profitability and sustainability of wheat production for all four classes of spring wheat. The economic benefit of growing wheat varieties developed by the WSU spring wheat program is evidenced by their significant acreage. In total, ~50% of the 2009 and 2010 Washington spring wheat acres were planted to WSU spring wheat varieties. A single "perfect" wheat variety will never exist. Washington and Pacific Northwest production environments vary considerably across relatively small geographic distances, while four market classes of spring wheat are produced with variable end-use quality characteristics. Changing production systems, disease and insect pest problems, market preferences/end-uses, and variable weather patterns all demand a long-term integrated effort to respond to and improve yield potential/protection and grain quality. Yield limiting biotic (including stripe rust, root diseases, and insect pests) and abiotic (including heat, drought, poor fertility, herbicide carryover) stresses reduce wheat production across the state. Our aim is to provide genetic solutions to these production limitations in the form of new, high-yielding, pest-resistant, high-quality varieties. Variety development and germplasm enhancement are accomplished by conventional plant breeding breeding activities, including cross-pollination, followed by selection of superior lines and yield testing at multiple locations throughout the state. New higher-yielding wheats with pest resistance and superior end-use quality will be released to Pacific Northwest wheat growers and increase spring wheat profitability and sustainability, while decreasing the use of pesticides.