AWC - Funded Research

Identifying resistance to tan spot disease in winter and durum wheat

AWC Contribution: $137,500


Tan spot is a destructive foliar disease of wheat that can damage growing plants anytime during crop development causing millions of dollars in losses. It affects nearly all common and durum wheat cultivars available to Canadian farmers; however, the lack of resistance to tan spot in wheat is overlooked in most wheat breeding programs. Genetic resistance is the most cost effective and durable approach to manage tan spot. The proposed project aims to identify sources of resistance to tan spot in durum and winter wheat.


The ultimate goal of this research is to achieve durable resistance to tan spot disease and fill a gap in our knowledge with regard to pathogen race structure and genetic diversity in relation to different wheat classes.

  1.  Identify resistance sources in durum and winter wheat to all races of the pathogen
  2. Investigate pathogen variability on durum and winter wheat in western Canada

Benefits to producers:

In the southern prairies, where durum is most commonly grown and where winter wheat seeded area has increased significantly over the last decade, tan spot is the most prevalent leaf spotting pathogen. In 2003, tan spot was recognized as the most predominant wheat leaf spot disease in Canada and the USA. Farmers’ fields with heavy infection in southern Alberta and Swift Current were found regularly during annual disease survey. Most registered cultivars vary in resistance levels to leaf spots diseases from fair to very poor in their reaction. While earlier research looked into resistance sources in the Canadian Western Red Spring class (CWRS), there is no elaborated work on durum and winter wheat, yet durum in particular exhibits a bit higher level of susceptibility to tan spot compared with CWRS. Revenue from both durum and winter wheat in these regions accounts for about $2 billion annually. A typical yield loss of 10% means millions of dollars lost every year. Therefore, identification of resistance sources is a high priority to effectively manage the disease.


Dr. Reem Aboukhaddour is a Research Scientist in cereal pathology in AAFC at Lethbridge Research and Development Centre, Alberta. Her expertise includes understanding dynamics of fungal pathogen virulence and pathogenicity. Her research focuses on wheat yellow rust, leaf spots.