New OSU-bred wheat varieties yield more, resist disease

A combine harvests Goetze wheat, a variety developed by OSU.
A combine harvests Goetze wheat, a variety developed by OSU that's suited for the Willamette Valley. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)
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Cultivars also test well with millers and bakers

Oregon wheat growers depend on new varieties to improve yields and fight crop diseases. So for more than a century, OSU's wheat breeders have been at work. They've developed dozens of varieties adapted to Oregon's diverse growing conditions.

Each year in the Columbia Basin, OSU tests more than 40,000 genetically distinct lines. They are created using genetic markers and a painstakingly tedious, old-fashioned breeding technique involving tweezers, scissors and hand pollination at OSU’s Hyslop Farm in Corvallis. It can take more than 10 years for one of those genetic crosses to make it into a cake or cookie. Researchers keep an eye out for cultivars with superior milling and baking qualities, high yield, and resistance to diseases. Over the years, OSU scientists have created high-yielding Tubbs and Tubbs 06; ORCF-101, and ORCF-102, which were bred to resist a specific herbicide; and Stephens, which was Oregon’s most widely planted wheat from 1979 to 2009. Since 2012, OSU has released four new varieties: Kaseberg and Ladd for baking, and high-yielders Rosalyn and Bobtail.

The work is paying off. Oregon’s farmers planted more than 721,000 acres of soft white winter wheat in fall 2012. OSU’s varieties made up more than 80 percent of that. ORCF-101 accounted for half of the state’s soft white winter wheat that was planted that fall, making it the leading variety. The impact of OSU's wheat-breeding program does not stop at the Oregon state line. OSU's wheat made up nearly 30 percent of Washington's acreage of soft white winter wheat in fall 2012, with OSU's ORCF-102 being the No. 1 variety there.

Watch this video to learn more about OSU's wheat research.

Sources: OSU wheat breeder Bob Zemetra; USDA's 2010 wheat varieties report; Oregon Wheat Commission

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