Improvements in breeding tools are helping to make hybrid wheat a reality.
Wouldn’t it be great if wheat farmers could glean hybrid vigor akin to what cattle producers do when they glean a black baldie calf from crossing a Hereford bull with an Angus cow? These days, maybe they can.
Syngenta plans to launch hybrid wheat in the U.S. by decade’s end. Bayer CropScience has also been working on hybrid wheat with a similar timeline.
Hybrid wheat has long been a gleam in the eyes of farmers and wheat breeders. Physiologically, though, it’s often been difficult for pollen from this self-pollinating crop to travel long distances. Other hurdles have included lack of seed production on the female side, susceptibility to fungal diseases, and added seed costs.
However, Darcy Pawlik, Syngenta’s product lead for cereals, notes some tools that will help make hybrid wheat a reality:
• Long-term improvement of germplasm base
• Native trait stacks
• Doubled haploid breeding
• Marker-assisted recurrent selection
Boost from Barley
Syngenta officials discussed their hybrid wheat plans at last month’s Syngenta Media Summit in Cary, North Carolina. It’s using the same platform to develop hybrid wheat as it did for hybrid barley that is now commercialized in the United Kingdom.
“Hybridization will revolutionize the way wheat is grown,” predicts Patricia Malarkey, who heads research and development for Syngenta.
So far, yields in North Dakota for hybrid wheat have been 10% to 15% higher than conventional varieties, say Syngenta officials. “With hybrid wheat, you can take the best of both parents and get an additive effect,” says Pawlik.