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Wheat Breeder – University of Guelph

Principal Investigator

Alireza Navabi

Research Institution

University of Guelph

External Funding Partners

University of Guelph; SeCan; Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC); Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA); Genome Canada.

Project Start

May 2013

Project End

March 2017


  • Developing winter and spring wheat germplasm and varieties adapted to southwestern Ontario.
  • Understanding the inheritance of resistance against fusarium head blight and developing novel breeding tools and strategies.
  • Understanding the inheritance of drought tolerance in spring wheat and developing novel selection tools.
  • Understanding the inheritance of phosphorus use efficiency in synthetic hexaploid wheat as a source of new introgression.
  • Understanding environmental adaptation as influenced by vernalization and photoperiod response in winter wheat.
  • Developing spring barley germplasm with adaptation to southwestern Ontario.


  • The commercial release of new wheat and barley varieties with improved agronomics will allow Ontario growers to remain globally competitive.
  • The development of selection tools and strategies that help improve selection will enable breeders to develop cereal cultivars with improved traits, such as drought tolerance, FHB resistance.

Scientific Summary

The University of Guelph Wheat Breeding Program was established in 2014 through a three-way public-private partnership involving the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) of the University of Guelph, the Grain Farmers of Ontario, and SeCan. The partnership resulted in the establishment of a new research chair position in the Department of Plant Agriculture, titled the “Grain Farmers of Ontario Professorship in Wheat Breeding”. The program has since maintained its focus on three core objectives: 1) developing novel wheat and barley varieties with improved agronomics adapted to southwestern Ontario, 2) understanding the genetics and genomics of important wheat characteristics, and 3) training of highly qualified personnel.

Within the first 5 years since the establishment of professorship, the program has targeted the development of a new dynamic OAC breeding gene-pool of wheat, in which recombination of improved agronomic and quality characteristics is enhanced through introduction of new genetic diversity, crossing, and selection, and from which new wheat varieties can be extracted on a regular basis. The program has also initiated a number of genetics and genomics research to better understand the inheritance of adaption-related traits such as response to temperature, photoperiod, diseases, drought and nutrient availability. These studies are also expected to result in developing new plant breeding tools and strategies that can improve the rate of genetic gain in wheat breeding. It is envisioned that the program will also provide a dynamic learning environment for training of highly qualified personnel in different academic levels ranging from under-graduate students to post-doctoral researchers.