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National Wheat Improvement Program Cluster, Activity 5: Development of improved spring wheat cultivars with enhanced disease and pest resistance, higher nutritional benefits, and better market appeal and grain quality for eastern and central Canada

Principal Investigator

Shahrokh Khanizadeh

Research Institution

Ottawa Research and Development Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC)

External Funding Partners

This project is part of the $25.2 million National Wheat Improvement Program funded by the Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF), the Canadian Field Crop Research Alliance (CFCRA), the Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC), and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) through the Industry-Led Research and Development Stream of the Growing Forward 2 AgriInnovation Program. Grain Farmers of Ontario is a founding member of the CFCRA.

Project Start

April 2013

Project End

March 2018


  • Develop improved disease resistant spring wheat cultivars with better market appeal and grain quality; and adapted for eastern Canada.
  • Develop and apply selection techniques in breeding to increase screening efficiency for disease resistance to important diseases, such as rust, powdery mildew and Fusarium head blight (FHB).
  • Improve and apply methodologies for screening quality, such as bran physical properties, milling properties and dough functionality affecting processing.


  • The improvement of eastern Canada spring wheat in terms of yield, disease resistance and quality may allow producers greater access to value-added processing markets surrounding the Great Lakes and along the St. Lawrence River.
  • The improvements to eastern Canadian spring wheat with greater disease resistance could allow for increased economic sustainability, allowing farmers to use less pesticide and be more efficient using inputs on their farm.

Scientific Summary

While most of the Canadian production of hard red and white spring wheat is in the Prairie provinces, the most important domestic market of well over a million tonnes is in eastern Canada. The milling, processing, and baking industry is centered around the Great Lakes and along the St. Lawrence River, and has undergone an unprecedented expansion into value-added processing in recent years to supply the huge market on both sides of the Canada-US border. However, growers in eastern Canada have been able to supply only a fraction of this large market on their doorstep, due to generally low yields, low quality, and especially infection by Fusarium graminearum, the fungus causing Fusarium head blight (FHB). FHB is the most important disease of hard spring wheat because it affects not only grain yield but also grain quality and food safety through mycotoxins that render the grain suitable only for feed, or blending. Resistance to the fungus causing FHB has not been detected in any wheat variety. Levels of the major mycotoxin deoxynivalenol (DON) that results from FHB are a good indicator of the degree of infection and are therefore used as a screening tool for resistance. This challenge presents exciting new opportunities for plant scientists to combine the highest possible levels of resistance with excellent milling and baking quality.

This project builds on the results obtained from a previous research project, which indicated an opportunity to create new disease resistant spring wheat varieties in order to increase profitability including value-added products and quality enhancements at the processing level and with lower production costs. The project is composed of three main parts: 1) breeding and selection including the use of markers, evaluation of advanced lines nationally, 2) disease evaluation and 3) grain quality evaluation. The proposed team is a group of well-known researchers, expert in breeding, genetic, use of markers, disease evaluation and quality analysis and effectively complement each other from crossing to variety release.

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