AWC - Funded Research

Identifying new genes in domesticated intermediate wheatgrass to improve biotic and abiotic stress resistance and grain quality for wheat

AWC contribution: $400,000.00


This research project evaluates intermediate wheatgrass (Thinopyrum intermedium) for disease resistance genes that can be transferred to wheat. A combination of phenotypic evaluation, molecular analysis and intergeneric crossing will assist (1) breeders working on developing new varieties of wheat with new sources of disease resistance genes for stripe rust and Fusarium Head Blight (2) perennial wheat breeders working on developing sustainable cropping system.

Objectives:(note: objectives may not be posted online, but will be provided if a member specifically asks)

  1. Identify genes from Thinopyrum intermedium for improving resistance to biotic stress in wheat.
  2. Identification of SNPs in parental lines and in mapping populations to identify gene sequences to accelerate introgression of Thinopyrum intermedium into wheat.
  3. Make crosses between wheat and Thinopyrum intermedium to begin introgression of novel genes into wheat.
  4. Generation advance of initial wheat X wheatgrass crosses and selection of meiotically stable, high yielding annual wheat breeding lines via molecular markers linked to novel genes. Distribute new wheat germplasm to annual wheat breeders.
  5. Selection of meiotically stable perennial wheat amphiploids from wheat X wheatgrass crosses using molecular markers that will be released as new perennial wheat varieties.

Benefit to producers:

Wheatgrass has been a source of disease resistance genes for wheat for many years. Research findings will enable development of future wheat cultivars that are more resistant and tolerant to biotic stresses


Dr. Jamie Larsen is a research scientist focusing on plant breeding with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Lethbridge, Alberta. His research is centred on developing perennial wheat, winter durum wheat, perennial cereal rye, fall rye and winter triticale for grain and livestock producers with the goal of maximizing the sustainability of cereal production systems. In annual cereals, the breeding goal is to develop high yielding, disease resistant varieties that address grain and biomass market requirements across Canada as well as develop improved parental material for perennial cereals development. In perennial cereals, the research goals are to understand the genetics behind perennial habit in wheatgrass and how it differs from annual wheat which builds towards breeding perennial wheat and cereal rye that are stably perennial and high yielding for three or more years. His program also includes a crop agronomy component to address knowledge gaps in the crops he works in. His philosophy is that good varieties and good agronomy go hand-in-hand to maximize the production potential for Canadian farmers.