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Breeding wheat for integrated and diversified farms in the PNW

Colin Curwen-McAdams1, Steve Lyon1, Dr. Stephen Jones1WSU-Mount Vernon NWREC, Mount Vernon, WA 98273


In the costal Northwest wheat has the same end uses as the rest of the world, but it is grown in a very different climate from the major production regions and in a diverse array of farming systems.  Wheat, along with other small grains, are important components of farm rotations and overall farm economic and ecological performance.  The goal of these projects is to differentiate the wheat grown in our region and to develop varieties that integrate into rotations and provide value to our community.

Novel Seed Colors and Baking Quality

Wheat is classified and marketed by a variety of characters, including the color of the bran layer, which is typically red or white.  Blue and Purple also exist, but have not been developed agronomically because of the complexity they would add to the commodity system.  By breeding these colors into lines well adapted to our region and selecting for excellent whole grain baking quality we are developing a specialty grain that can be marketed outside of the commodity markets.

This spring F2 seed of a wide range of crosses was planted on a replicated design to select for vivid seed color and agronomics as well as increasing seed towards baking trials.  Additionally, advanced generation material is being evaluated for grain antioxidant capacity and baking quality under organic conditions.

Perennial Wheat and Forage

The perennial wheat project seeks to develop a new crop type adapted to the costal Northwest that can be used as food, feed or forage.  Most of the wild relatives of wheat are perennial in habit and through classical breeding it is possible to intercross them and select for agronomic traits and perennial growth habit.

Our program has worked with this material for many years and advanced, stable lines are being selected for regional adaptation.  We have also made crosses of regionally adapted wheats, identified through our variety trials, and wild relatives to continue building a base for this new crop.  Through direct collaboration with farmers, chefs, millers, maltsters and bakers we are selecting lines that can function in integrated farm and livestock systems as well as provide a distinct grain for human use.

Last fall we planted an organic forage trial to look at the dry matter yield and nutritive value of different varieties of oats, wheat, barley and triticale to see how perennial lines compare.  Plots were harvested this spring and samples submitted for analysis which will inform a larger trial next year.

Single plants and populations were selected last year from a large variety trial and are being evaluated this year for agronomics, regrowth and end use qualities as well as investigating the underlying genetics.

Selections from a blue wheat breeding line.
Selections from a blue wheat breeding line.
Clockwise from Left: second year plant in the field, Fall 2014 planting, chromosomes of a breeding line.
Clockwise from Left: second year plant in the field, Fall 2014 planting, chromosomes of a breeding line.