Wheat variety plots across Texas offer varied soil temperature and moisture conditions to test a number of yield stress and quality traits

Wheat variety plots across Texas offer varied soil, temperature and moisture conditions to test a number of yield, stress and quality traits.

Wheat varieties build on established standards

Wheat breeding considers various  targets: climate, pests, milling quality. New varieties build on proven varieties

Adding yield potential, stress tolerance, and milling traits from proven varieties to create even better options for wheat farmers can help to keep Southwest and U.S. wheat competitive in a global market, says Texas AgriLife wheat breeder Jackie Rudd.

He explains the process: “In 2014, we released TAM 204, which was derived from a cross with TAM 112.  TAM 204 is a beardless wheat for grain, grazing, and graze-out. It has a high grain and forage yield and an excellent pest resistance package, including stem, stripe, and leaf rust; wheat streak mosaic and wheat soilborne viruses; and wheat curl mite, greenbug, and Hessian fly.” The new variety is now licensed to Whatley Seed Company.

At the recent Red River Crops Conference in Altus, Okla., Rudd explained some of the work he and other Texas AgriLife wheat breeders are undertaking. The conference, in its third year, is a joint operation of the Texas A&M and Oklahoma State University Extension Services, and alternates between Altus and Childress, Texas.

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Wheat breeding is a long process, Rudd says. It typically takes 15 years from start to release of a new variety. “But we don’t start over with each new variety,” he notes. Breeders use proven germplasm to improve breeding lines. TAM 105, he explains, was crossed with rye to develop TAM 107, which in turn was crossed with a wild species to develop TAM 110. Then, TAM 110 was crossed with another wild selection to produce Tam 112.


The breeding bricks continue to stack on top of each other. Mason plus Jagger, plus Pecos equaled M5009. TAM 112 plus M5009 produced TAM 204.

“It’s a brick by brick process,” Rudd says. He also acknowledges the role weather, special needs, and geography play in variety development.

Rudd works out of the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Amarillo, in the High Plains. “But Texas is a diverse state,” he says, “with variations in rainfall, soils, and temperature ranges. We have 30 wheat trial locations across the state, and we see year-to-year variations. We’ve just come out of four years of drought, and varieties developed in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 were grown under a lot of stress. Varieties developed over the last four years likely will be more drought tolerant, but not as disease resistant.”

South Texas growing conditions feature more moisture and higher humidity than other parts of the state, he says, so stripe rust and leaf rust are likely every year, and identifying resistance to those diseases is important for that area.


Some traits are more universal. Yield potential, quality, and bread-baking characteristics are important throughout the Southwest. “Millers don’t like low protein, low test weight, and small seeds,” Rudd says, “and we will identify additional trait targets, depending on the region.” Forage production is important to some areas, but not all.

Rudd says varieties change over time. “TAM 105 was the top variety across the U.S. at one time. TAM 111 is based on TAM 105 and was resistant to stripe rust, but is not any more. TAM 112 is also susceptible.”

Thus the need to continue improving and testing varieties under varying conditions. TAM 204 traces its lineage back to TAM 112, and is considered resistant to stripe and leaf rusts.

Rudd says new innovations include a synthetic hexaploid — what he terms “man-made wheat” —that features three common grass crosses.

He acknowledges the support of the Texas Wheat Producers Board for the breeding work.

“It all starts in the greenhouse,” Rudd says. “Then about 15 years later, we have seed to distribute.”

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