National Wheat Improvement Program Cluster, Activity 31, Enhancing resistance to Fusarium head blight and stem rust in Ontario spring wheat germplasm

Principal Investigator

George Fedak

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

Objectives

  • roduce integrated map of simple sequence repeats (SSR) and single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers.
  • Produce SNP markers for resistance genes obtained from wild relatives of wheat.
  • Select pyramids with the FHB resistance quantitative trait loci (QTL) from double haploid (DH) populations.

Impact

  • The introduction of new genes for resistance to numerous diseases in wheat will allow for increased economic return by allowing farmers to be more efficient in applying pesticides used in production.
  • The use of molecular markers provides greater efficiency and precision when manipulating desirable genes in wheat, allowing breeders to create pyramids consisting of combinations of up to four genes, which is not possible with conventional techniques.

Scientific Summary

Fusarium head blight is a ubiquitous disease of cereals in all temperate grain-growing regions of the world. Fusarium head blight (FHB) is the most serious disease of wheat worldwide. It reduces grain yields plus quality through the deposition of mycotoxins in the grain. Inheritance of resistance is complex and screening for resistance is confounded by environmental factors. Success in breeding for resistance has been slow and incremental, so additional resistance genes were sought in alien species. Five such new genes were bred through conventional breeding methods into wheat. The assignment of single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers to the resistance genes will permit the use of marker assisted selection in deploying these genes in breeding programs. This project will develop molecular markers and use them to pyramid the target genes with other known resistance genes to produce germplasm with enhanced levels of FHB resistance for use in variety development.

A screening of Ontario spring wheat germplasm with stem rust Ug99 races revealed no resistance at all. Fortunately, a number stem rust resistance (Sr) genes with resistance to Ug99 are available. These are being organized into pyramids of Sr genes combined with genes for leaf rust and Fusarium resistance. Pyramids of several Sr genes will provide for greater durability of the resistance. The first pyramids, consisting of Sr genes, combined with genes for resistance to leaf rust, loose smut and Fusarium have been produced. Many more combinations are in the pipeline. These efforts will produce germplasm with multiple disease resistance genes for wheat breeding programs in Ontario and elsewhere.

National Wheat Improvement Program Cluster, Activity 32, Identification of expression QTLs (eQTLs) for Fusarium Head Blight resistance and susceptibility in wheat

Principal Investigator

Thérèse Ouellet

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

Objectives

  • Identify genetic markers associated with gene expression patterns that correlate with resistance or susceptibility to Fusarium Head Blight (FHB) in spring wheat.
  • Identify additional wheat breeding material carrying the expressed quantitative traits (eQTLs) discovered in project by testing spring wheat lines from 6 Canadian breeding programs; this will include a comparative field evaluation for FHB disease resistance over three field seasons at one site.
  • Validate the association between the genetic markers and the expressed genes identifying the eQTLs by testing gene expression in subsets of lines that are contrasting for the presence of the eQTLs.

Impact

  • The improvement of FHB resistance in Canadian wheat breeding programs through identification of wheat genes or expressed quantitative traits (eQTLs) associated with increased susceptibility to FHB and with resistance to FHB.
  • The improvement of food security by reducing the incidence of deoxynivalenol (DON) accumulation through the efforts of wheat breeding.

Scientific Summary

Even though a majority of wheat breeding programs in Canada have deployed significant efforts towards improving resistance for Fusarium Head Blight (FHB) during the last 20 years, progress has been slow and FHB still remains a priority problem for the industry. The identification of genetic markers associated with resistance to FHB has accelerated the improvement of resistance to FHB by allowing breeding programs for spring and winter wheat to track genetic loci for quantitative traits (QTLs) contributing to that resistance. QTLs for resistance to FHB have been identified so far from field disease rating and deoxynivalenol (DON) accumulation data. However, the known QTLs for resistance to FHB in wheat capture only part of the resistance observed in the field.

This project uses a different approach, called differential gene expression, to identify genetic markers associated with expression QTLs (eQTLs) that cannot be detected by conventional marker discovery work using field data. Our group at AAFC-ORDC, Ottawa, has developed a database of global gene expression profiles from FHB-susceptible and -resistant wheat varieties/breeding lines when infected by Fusarium graminearum. Comparative analysis of those expression profiles followed by experimental validation has led to the identification of genes contributing to either susceptibility or resistance to FHB. We propose to complement this work by using a high throughput sequencing technology (RNASeq) for comparative expression profiling on a double haploid population segregating for FHB resistance that is being mapped with the 90K wheat SNP chip in a separate project. This will allow us to validate the correlation to resistance or susceptibility for additional candidate genes and identify if they are associated with new or known QTL or new eQTLs identified from this and the mapping work. Genetic markers associated with QTLs/eQTLs for susceptibility or resistance to FHB will be tested on a panel of 120 spring wheat breeding lines and varieties from 6 Canadian spring wheat breeding programs, to identify material that carry the novel QTLs/eQTLs and provide breeders with additional options in their strategies to improve resistance to FHB.

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

Objectives

  • 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.

Impact

  • 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.