WSU releases four new wheat varieties

PULLMAN – WSU has released four new wheat varieties for commercialization, including Xerpha, a soft-white common winter wheat, which is highly adapted to a broad range of production zones in Washington, Oregon, southern Idaho and northern California.

“WSU’s job is to work in partnership with industry so growers will have the best varieties possible,” said Ralph Cavalieri, director of the Agricultural Research Center and associate dean of the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences. “These new varieties are the product of good science, hard work and the dedication of our breeding teams.”

In 2006 and 2007, Xerpha, a product of Steve Jones winter wheat breeding program, was the highest yielding variety in every precipitation zone in the WSU Extension Cereal Variety Testing Program where it was compared with 50 other varieties, breeding lines and varietal blends from 10 other programs at 19 locations.

Jones named the wheat in honor of Xerpha Gaines, a WSU botanist, and wife of Edward Gaines, a prominent early agronomist at WSU.

Farnum, Whit and Kelse, three varieties from Kim Kidwell’s breeding program, also were approved for final release.

Farnum, a high yielding, hard red winter wheat, is named for a major road in the Horse Heaven Hills where the variety is targeted. The variety carries an early senescence gene associated with high grain protein content as well as a slow rusting gene for stripe rust.

Kidwell collaborated with Jones and Kim Campbell, USDA-ARS wheat geneticist on this variety.

Whit, a soft white common spring wheat, is named for and suited for production in Whitman County although it also has performed well in Latah County, Idaho. It has high-temperature, adult plant resistance to stripe rust and Hessian fly resistance.

“We expect it to replace Nick, Alpowa and some Louise in the high rainfall region,” said Kidwell, who was appointed associate dean for academic programs of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences last summer.

Kelse, named in honor of one of Kidwell’s nieces, is a high protein hard red spring wheat for the intermediate to high rainfall zone. “Kelse is the first hard red spring wheat variety developed by our program with excellent race-specific all-stage resistance and indications of durable high-temperature, adult plant resistance to stripe rust,” Kidwell said.

WSU’s reorganized Cereal Variety Release Committee, which includes greater industry input, recommended final release of these varieties at its Feb. 21 meeting. Cavalieri approved the releases on behalf of the Agricultural Research Center.

The committee approved two other lines for breeder seed increase signaling their release as early as next year.

WSU and the WSU Research Foundation agree to offer the Washington Wheat Commission or a Commission-affiliated corporation, hereinafter referred to as “Affiliate,” the first right to negotiate a worldwide, exclusive license to any new wheat varieties developed by University researchers where Commission funding has been used during the development process.

The Washington State Crop Improvement Association will have foundation seed for Farnum and Xerpha for commercial application in the fall of 2008. Foundation seed for Kelse and Whit will be available in the spring of 2009.

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