Enhancing wheat midge resistance in spring and durum wheat

  • Term: Three years, beginning 2015
  • Funding amount: $79,638
  • Lead researcher(s): Alejandro Costamagna , University of Manitoba
  • Funding partners: Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF), Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture (SMA) - Agriculture Development Fund (ADF)
  • Project description: In Western Canada, orange wheat blossom midge is one of the most damaging wheat pests, causing approximately $60 million in annual losses. Most of these losses occur in Saskatchewan, although significant damage from the pest also occurs in Manitoba and Alberta.

Wheat midge resistance based upon the Sm1 resistance gene has been successfully commercialized in spring wheat (CWRS: Fieldstar VB, Goodeve VB, Shaw VB, Unity VB, CDC Utmost VB, Vesper VB; CPSR: Conquer VB, Enchant VB; CWES: Glencross VB) and durum wheat (AAC Marchwell) wheat in Western Canada. Sm1 confers resistance in the form of antibiosis, killing wheat midge larvae that feed upon wheat plants with the Sm1 gene.

Adoption of wheat midge resistant varieties by farmers has been rapid. The value of Sm1 exceeds $1 billion to Western Canadian farmers. However, research has discovered that Sm1-based wheat midge resistance in the variety Shaw functions better than other Sm1-based midge resistant varieties. This project will study the genetic differences between Shaw and Goodeve to determine the basis of this variation. This will translate into additional varieties with Sm1 functionality like Shaw in the future.

Insect and disease resistance genes fail on a regular basis. Additional control measures are needed to manage wheat midge in the probable event that Sm1 breaks down. Presently, oviposition deterrence is the only other known host mechanism for managing wheat midge. This study will also provide the knowledge needed to rapidly and efficiently utilize that type of resistance in Canadian breeding programs.

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