Snow mold infects turf grass.
 
A genetic map being developed by scientists at WSU in collaboration with scientists at Japan’s National Agricultural Research Center on the northern island of Hokkaido may speed development of wheat varieties that are more resistant to snow mold.
Snow mold is a fungus-caused disease of wheat and other grasses. It’s prevalent in areas that have early snow and significant prolonged snow cover on ground that has not frozen. In Washington, that includes about 200,000 acres of winter wheat in Chelan, Douglas, Okanogan, Lincoln and Stevens counties.
The fungus destroys the leaves and crown beneath the snow, commonly reducing yields between 20 and 40 percent. Fungicides are not cost effective. Improving genetic resistance is regarded as the best option.
Tim Murray, WSU professor of plant pathology, and Zenta Nishio, a wheat researcher with the NARCH, are testing genetic lines for snow mold resistance in growth chambers on the WSU campus where winter conditions can be simulated year-round.
 Nishio has developed a set of PCR primers that are being used in the lab to assess snow mold resistance. PCR is a laboratory technique that allows scientists to detect DNA-specific sequences of an organism’s genes.
The scientists have evaluated 100 progeny lines from a cross of highly resistant wheat from Switzerland and very susceptible wheat from the Netherlands. They are developing a genetic map that should allow breeders to use marker-assisted selection to identify resistant plants more quickly than with field or growth-chamber testing.
Varieties with improved resistance to snow mold will have improved yield potential, thus providing growers with a greater selection of adapted, high-yielding, snow-mold resistant varieties from which to choose. 
 
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