South Dakota State University plant breeders are going to start crossing winter wheat with corn.
It's not a genetic modification, but a conventional breeding technique that has been around for 20 years called double haploid production.
Bayer CropScience and Ducks Unlimited recently provided SDSU with funding help hire a post doctoral researcher to do the work.
The technique will shave one or two years off the time it takes to develop a new wheat variety, says Bill Berzonsky, SDSU plant breeder.
The procedure doesn't result in combining the genes of wheat and the corn. The corn pollen is used to induce the wheat to keep its own set of chromosomes, which are later chemically doubled in the last step of the procedure.
"This is not transformation," says Maria Caffee, SDSU post doctorate researcher who will be helping pollinate wheat with corn. "The aim is to arrive at a homozygous line. Instead of selfing many generations, in one step we can get to the homozygous stage. We cross the wheat with corn, and the chromosomes from the corn are eliminated from the cells during embryo development. In the dividing embryo cells you are going to have only the one set, the haploid set of chromosomes from the wheat."
Blake Vander Vorst, Ducks Unlimited senior agronomist, says implementation of the doubled-haploid plant breeding technique at SDSU is an exciting first step to increase the efficiencies of the winter wheat breeding programs in the Prairie Pothole Region.
Alan Ayers, Bayer CropScience director of state affairs, says it's important to speed up the development of new wheat varieties.
"Improvement in traits such as cold tolerance, disease resistance and grain quality will pay big dividends for growers in the PPR and other regions in the future."