Date of this Version
Agricultural Research February 2013.
Pacific Northwest wheat growers now have added insurance against outbreaks of yield-robbing fungi, thanks to Cara, a soft, white, winter club wheat cultivar developed by the Agricultural Research Service that boasts high levels of disease resistance and outstanding flour quality.
Washington State accounts for 77 percent, or 230,000 acres, of the entire U.S. club wheat crop, with the remainder produced in Oregon and Idaho. Much of the acreage in Washington and Oregon is planted with three cultivars: Bruehl, Cara, and Chukar. Spring-sown club wheat cultivars JD and Eden are grown on another 11,000 acres. Although several other winter club wheats are available, there’s been a push to broaden the specialty crop’s genetic diversity, especially amid the latest fungal disease flare-up.
“Recently, we’ve had severe epidemics of stripe rust, which is able to mutate rapidly and overcome the resistance that’s present in the current crop,” says Kim Garland-Campbell, an ARS geneticist who coordinates the club wheat breeding program. “We’re correcting former deficiencies, like poor disease resistance, in today’s club wheat and put together a crop production package that’s better than what was available.”
Cara, the program’s latest offering, combined high grain yields and flour quality with resistance to multiple fungal diseases, most notably stripe rust, which has inflicted yield losses of up to 40 percent. The release and subsequent sale of Cara, in 2009, “coincided with a stripe-rust epidemic and has driven a lot of the popularity,” notes Garland-Campbell, with the ARS Wheat Genetics, Quality, Physiology, and Disease Research Unit in Pullman, Washington.