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National Wheat Improvement Program Cluster, Activity 51: Breeding Eastern Canadian winter wheat for resistance to biotic and tolerance to abiotic stresses

Principal Investigator

Lily Tamburic-Ilincic

Research Institution

University of Guelph

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


  • Development of winter wheat germplasm with increased resistance to Fusarium head blight (FHB) and other diseases and stress tolerance for Eastern Canada.
  • Development of high yielding hard red winter wheat varieties with grain concentrations low in deoxynivalenol (DON) and high in protein.
  • Development of high yielding soft winter wheat varieties with increased resistance to diseases and pre-harvest sprouting (PHS).
  • Monitoring of Fusarium graminearum populations (15-ADON and 3-ADON chemotypes) across different wheat growing areas in Ontario and investigate their ability to produce mycotoxins.


  • The development of winter wheat with higher yield potential, good quality and Fusarium resistance will provide growers with a higher financial return and industry and consumers will benefit from wheat with lower DON level.
  • The improved understanding of the role of plant height, nitrogen requirements, and lodging resistance in breeding hard winter wheat with high protein and increased yield will lead to more quality hard red winter wheat produced in Ontario will lower transportation cost of bringing wheat to millers and bakers from other regions of Canada.
  • The development of new QTLs for FHB resistance, FDK level, DON accumulation and agronomic characteristics in winter wheat populations will lead to the breeding of winter wheat lines with good diseases resistance and yield for Eastern Canada.

Scientific Summary

Winter wheat is an important crop in Eastern Canada. Increased yield and better quality of wheat can be achieved by the improvement of resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses. The most important winter wheat disease in Ontario is Fusarium head blight (FHB) caused by a fungus Fusarium graminearum. Good correlation between FHB visual symptoms and deoxynivalenol (DON) is reported in some studies but poor correlation in other studies. Higher correlation is reported between Fusarium damaged kernels (FDK) and DON level.

In this project, mapping populations from two crosses between a FHB resistant parent and a FHB susceptible parent were used and they were phenotyped for FHB severity and FGB incidence across different environments. In addition, these mapping populations will be used to identify QTLs for FHB index, FDK level and DON accumulation using high-density SNP arrays. A shift in the presence of two Fusarium graminearum(FG) chemotypes, 15-ADON and 3-ADON, have been reported in North America. We have been monitoring FG populations across Ontario, because the shift may influence current FHB management strategies. Combining resistance to multiple diseases and tolerance to abiotic stresses such as winter hardiness, lodging resistance, the length of the grain-fill period and resistance to pre-harvest sprouting in a single cultivar is difficult. In this project, we evaluated green leaf duration across four environments in a double haploid (DH) soft red winter wheat population using green seeker. In addition to resistance to different stresses, agronomic and quality characteristics need to be incorporated into registered winter wheat in Canada.