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Canadian Field Crop Genetics Improvement Cluster, Activity 12: In vitro and genomic selection to increase yield and FHB tolerance in barley for eastern Canada

Principal Investigator

François Belzile

Research Institution

Université Laval

External Funding Partners

This project is part of the $10.3 million Canadian Field Crop Genetics Improvement Cluster funded by the Canadian Field Crop Research Alliance (CFCRA) and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) through the Industry-Led Research and Development Stream of the Growing Forward 2 AgriInnovation Program. Grain Farmers of Ontario is a founding member of the CFCRA.

Project Start

April 2013

Project End

March 2018

Objectives

  • Explore two novel approaches for achieving improved tolerance to Fusarium head blight (FHB) in barley.
  • The first strategy focuses on the use of in vitro selection where barley microspores (immature pollen) are used for producing doubled haploid (DH) lines and then challenged with the mycotoxin deoxynivalenol (DON) in tissue culture.
  • The second strategy focuses on the use of genomic selection, i.e. the identification of superior progeny on the basis of their genetic makeup and their predicted performance.

Impact

  • The development of new selection methods for breeding of barley lines that offer greater resistance to Fusarium head blight (FHB).
  • The improvement of genetic materials that offer greater resistance to FHB.
  • The enhancement of understanding of the genetic determinants of a greater resistance to the accumulation of DON during FHB infection.

Scientific Summary

Fusarium head blight (FHB) is a devastating disease in barley and wheat, most commonly caused by Fusarium graminearum. This fungus produces a potent mycotoxin (deoxynivalenol or DON) that helps it infect its host. When present in grain, DON is highly toxic to humans and animals. In barley, one of the great impediments to breeding for increased resistance to this disease is the absence of known resistance genes capable of conferring a high degree of resistance or tolerance to the disease. Another challenge in breeding for this trait is that the empirical measurement of tolerance levels (in terms of DON content in grain) is extremely difficult and costly. An additional challenge is the number of individuals/lines is so great that any testing for FHB tolerance in inoculated nurseries can only be done on a limited scale and the results are highly impacted by environmental conditions and only yields a very approximate idea of a plant’s reaction.

The purpose of this project is to explore two novel approaches for achieving improved tolerance to FHB in barley. A first strategy continues previous research on whether barley lines with a lower level of DON in infected grain also exhibit a higher tolerance to DON in tissue culture by using in vitro selection where barley microspores (immature pollen), used for producing doubled haploid (DH) lines, are challenged with DON. These barley plants will be planted in field trials to determine if they exhibit less DON upon infection. The second strategy is the use of genomic selection, i.e. the identification of superior progeny on the basis of their genetic makeup, through a statistical model that describes the relationship between the genetic makeup of a plant and its performance in terms of yield and other important agronomic attributes. These barley lines will be tested to compare the predicted performance with the actual performance observed in the field.

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