AWC - Funded Research

Winter wheat breeding and germplasm development for disease resistance

Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) Wheat Cluster Project

AWC Investment:  $27,838

Start date: April 1, 2018                                            
End date: February 28, 2023


 The University of Manitoba winter wheat breeding program is well established. The primary objectives of the wheat breeding program are to develop Canada Western Special Purpose (CWSP) Winter (30% of material) and Canada Western Red Winter (CWRW)  (70% of material) wheat cultivars that are disease resistant, short and strong-strawed, high yielding, cold hardy, and suited to the higher moisture regions of the eastern prairies. Diseases of main concern are leaf, stem and stripe rust, and Fusarium head blight.


This project will provide a continuation of work that was initiated in GF2. The primary objects of this research are to:

  1. Support development of winter wheat cultivars with resistance to Fusarium head blight (FHB) and leaf, stem and stripe rust,
  2. Contribute testing capacity to support other winter wheat breeding programs, and
  3. Provide undergraduate student training in field, greenhouse and laboratory techniques.

Benefits to industry:

This research will contribute to continued advancement of winter wheat cultivars, primarily for western Canada. Production of new cultivars of winter wheat will increase production of this crop. Currently, approximately 5% of western Canadian wheat production is dedicated to winter wheat, but this could easily increase up to 25% with the development of improved varieties and management. Winter wheat is an ideal crop for enhancing agricultural productivity and environmental stability. On average, winter wheat yields are 25-40% higher than spring wheat, depending on the spring wheat class. The winter growth habit of winter wheat also has the advantage of providing producers with options to spread risk associated with adverse climatic conditions and disease. In addition, production practices that require seeding into standing stubble support soil conservation and wildlife habitats.  Development of high yield, short, strong strawed, disease resistant winter wheat cultivars that show stable adaptation will provide producers with increased cropping options and improve profitability. The importance of winter wheat in the crop rotation will continue to increase as variable climatic conditions increase risks associated with spring wheat production (e.g. variable moisture, increased disease, etc.).


Anita Brûlé-Babel has been a professor at the University of Manitoba working in wheat breeding and genetics for over 32 years. The primary objectives of the breeding program are to develop Canada Western Red Winter (CWRW) and Canada Western Special Purpose (CWSP) winter wheat cultivars that are disease resistant, semi-dwarf, high yielding, cold hardy and suited to the higher moisture regions of the eastern prairies. Diseases of main concern are stem and leaf rust, leaf spotting diseases such as tan spot and Septoria leaf blotch, and Fusarium head blight. Anita has been conducting field trials on FHB in winter wheat since 1999 and conducts the only public FHB screening nursery for winter cereals in western Canada.  She leads a large spring wheat FHB screening nursery that provides data for all spring wheat breeders in western Canada, the variety registration trials, and mapping populations for her students and collaborators. In total 20,000- 25,000 plots are evaluated for FHB annually.  In addition, Anita has conducted fungicide efficacy trials for FHB control in spring and winter wheat. She has conducted studies to map resistance genes for FHB resistance in spring and winter wheat, has evaluated genotype response to different chemotypes of the pathogen, and has conducted gene expression studies to understand the plant defense response to FHB in wheat. Anita has supervised 30 graduate students and teaches courses in plant breeding, quantitative genetics and urban agriculture.