Wheat Research Partnerships and New Varieties On the Horizon--Brett Carver Looks to the FutureTue, 27 Mar 2012 18:09:49 CDT
There are a lot of currents in the development of new wheat varieties on the horizon for producers. Some of those currents are more evident in the board rooms of corporations and university governing bodies and other currents are to be found more in the laboratories and test plots.
Dr. Brett Carver, chairman of the National Wheat Improvement Committee, has a front-row seat into both areas. He spoke with Ron Hays at the recent Commodity Classic in Nashville.
One of the areas of greatest movement appears to be in the relationship between public and private crop research. Carver says those relationships are in a constant state of flux and need to be constantly examined and maintained. Land grant universities and private entities depend upon each other.
“We are in an environment where I like to consider it instead of more free and open, more free and responsible. It’s more free and managed. In an IP world, that’s just the way it goes. It’s a more managed environment so I have to become more accountable in the germ plasm I use and the germ plasm I share. And I’m more accountable to those who write my check, basically. But I’m also more accountable to the farmers for them to be able to capitalize on new genetic gains.
“This is one area that I’m a little bit nervous about, to be quite honest about it. Because our program whether it’s Oklahoma State University or private programs, are going to have to keep this concept of germ plasm exchange front and center. When you start fractionating that germ plasm pool it becomes more difficult to manage.
Carver says there is a lot of movement toward genetically modified wheat varieties, but that may be several years in the future. But he thinks genetic modification technologies have limits.
“I think everybody realizes that’s not going to be the only solution. There are so many tricks in our basket that we didn’t have just ten years ago that we now have that we don’t necessarily have to put all our marbles in that one basket. With the advent of molecular genetics now, we’re really kind of jumping on the bandwagon of the human genome project genetics and using that technology. That has really made a difference in the way that we can breed wheat. I think that translates into better varieties just as much as the GM solution will five to ten years down the road.”
Some of the new techniques are shortening the amount of time to address problems and modify varieties in less time than it took before.
“We still have a long ways to go, but we’re now using DNA information instead of field information to make selections that I would have never even dreamed of.
“One trait we’re just starting to figure out, and we talk about this in Oklahoma all the time, is first hollow stem and how it’s very hard to predict simply going out to the field. And we can measure it but we can’t necessarily predict it. And with the use of molecular markers in addition to that field information we collected all these years, we have a much better predictive system and we are using it, believe me, we are using it.”
Another big trend on the horizon is the partnership between public universities and private companies. Texas A&M recently partnered with Bayer Crop Science. Carver says OSU is certainly paying attention in this area.
“We are advancing forward with our eyes wide open. We’re not going through this with tunnel vision. We are looking at and exploring all options that are out there. We have not made any commitments, I can tell you that right now. That doesn’t mean we won’t make any commitments. What we want to do, though, is to be able to capitalize on innovation that we can’t access, also allow somebody who does not have access to germ plasm that we do to perhaps marry those two properties. Until that day comes, we’re going to continue on like we have in the past and utilize the best technology we can come up with on our own and hopefully help the Oklahoma wheat farmer.”
And helping the farmer is what Carver has in mind with the impending release of two of the university’s newest varieties.
“Gallagher and Iba represents, you know we talk about 3G and 4G, this is Duster 2G, basically. It’s the next generation of Duster. And I have spent a lot of time up here in the old noggin trying to think just how we utilize the advantages of Duster without wearing out the advantages of Duster. I think we have a couple of varieties that continue those Duster strengths in a way I think they’re going to be around quite a while.
“They are so different there was no way to decide one over the other. And they’re so complimentary that we thought we better come up with a name that will connect these two varieties so that when you hear one name you will automatically think of the other and you start comparing the two. And that’s what I want our wheat growers to think about is how can one of these varieties best serve them.
One of the exciting traits exhibited by one of the varieties is in the area of forage production.
“Yes, the preliminary evidence on Iba indicates it has very good forage production,” Carver says. “That’s not the total package, however. We don’t need just total forage production. We need the ability to produce forage and to bounce back from the consumption of that forage when we pull the cattle off. And I think Iba may have a little bit of an edge over Gallagher in that respect. Still, I don’t have enough information to say that conclusively.”
Carver will get his opportunity to collect more data as seed production was started on both Iba and Gallagher last year. He said Iba will have more seed available due to some last minute tweaking with Gallagher, but he says plenty of foundation seed should be available.
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