Scientists study irrigation practices

Tobie Blanchard, Gould, Frances I.  |  9/12/2018 8:01:06 PM

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A lush test plot of wheat is harvested at Winnsboro. LSU AgCenter wheat breeder Steve Harrison said the 2018 wheat harvest had the highest yields and quality for wheat during his 30 plus years of research. Provided by Steve Harrison

The 2017-18 wheat crop was outstanding from a production and research standpoint, according to LSU AgCenter wheat breeder Steve Harrison.

Harrison said weather conditions made for a nearly perfect growing season.

“We had the highest yields and the highest quality ever,” Harrison said. “We also had the lowest acreage.”

AgCenter wheat specialist Boyd Padgett said disease pressure was the lightest he has seen.

In some variety trials and production fields, yields were over 100 bushels per acre — nearly double typical yields, Harrison said.

The excellent crop also helped Harrison make progress in his breeding program with good seed production and good data. The one downside, he said, was trying to decide which wheat breeding lines to advance and which to discard because they all looked good.

“We have a lot of good material to filter through,” he said.

The LSU AgCenter is part of the Sungrains collaborative wheat breeding program with five other universities. Harrison said he increased two breeding lines that were developed by Georgia Foundation Seed in Plains, Georgia, in cooperation with the University

of Georgia. AgCenter scientists are determining if those lines will be released.

Another critical component of wheat breeding is identifying molecular markers that link to desirable traits.

Through a graduate student research project that he co-advises with Harrison, AgCenter molecular biologist Niranjan Baisakh has identified about 15 genes — or markers — that control resistance to the herbicide Sencor.

“We’re trying to narrow it down to three or four that we can work with for routine screening of lines coming out of the breeding pipeline,” Baisakh said.

He also said he screened close to 600 LSU AgCenter wheat breeding lines for different makers linked to various traits — mostly Fusarium head blight.

Baisakh is using the high-throughput marker screening facility at the AgCenter H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station but hopes to have equipment on campus soon to expedite the process.

Harrison said these biotech tools greatly benefit conventional breeding methods.

Padgett evaluated the variety tests and incidences of diseases. He also completed a fungicide test in the southern part of the wheat-growing region.

“It was a quiet year; not a lot of scab,” Padgett said.

Harrison said the oat program also had a good year.

“We made a record number of oat crosses this year,” he said.

Tobie Blanchard

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