AWC - Funded Research

Integrated management of stripe rust in wheat for Alberta (2019-2022)

AWC Investments: $150,000


Severe epidemics of stripe rust may cause up to 50% yield losses. Stripe rust has been observed every year in western Canada, with serious epidemics reported in 5 of last 10 years. Recent epidemics result from the pathogen overwintering in southern Alberta. This project will help us understand the virulence of stripe rust in western Canada, especially Alberta. We will identify resistant genes effective against races in western Canada and these genes will be transferred into wheat cultivars.


  1. Monitor incidence and severity of stripe rust in Alberta in both winter and spring wheat and determine the virulence of prevalent races.
  2. Identification and characterization of new sources of resistance including introgression of novel resistance genes into important classes (CWRS, CPS, SWS).
  3. Broadening the genetic base of western Canadian spring wheat resistance against stripe rust.
  4. Development of wheat cultivars with improved rust resistance.


Benefits to industry

In the 2016 crop season, stripe rust was epidemic in Alberta and yield losses in winter wheat averaged 15% in wheat in southern Alberta, in addition to the quality losses that resulted from shriveled seed. Stripe rust epidemics have been spreading northward in Alberta over the last 5 years and heavy infestation has been reported for susceptible cultivars north of Edmonton. Wheat production in Alberta currently averages 8 million metric tons which translates to $440m annually to the provincial economy. Losses of even 5-10% translate to significant losses at the farm gate.


Dr. Dean Spaner has been a professor for 20 years as a wheat breeder and agronomist at the University of Alberta. His research group works in two general areas:

  1. Conventional breeding (and genetic research) of wheat.
  2. Agronomy and breeding of wheat low input, high stress and organic agricultural environments.

They work mainly in the fields and in greenhouses. In addition to a fully operational modern research farm and greenhouse facilities, they also have the use of a modern genomic lab at the Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Alberta and conduct research on 11 acres of farmland on the South Campus devoted to organic agricultural research. They conduct wheat breeding and genetic and agronomic research on organic and conventional farms in central Alberta, and in affiliation with the Cereal Development Centre of Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development in Lacombe and various private companies. They collaborate extensively with many breeding programs within the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada network, and trial much material from CIMMYT in Mexico. Over 40 graduate students, Post-Doctoral Fellows and Research Associates have graduated from this program over the last 15 years, many now working in leading capacities in the agricultural sector of western Canada. The breeding program has released 11 CWRS and 1 CPS cultivars since 2013.