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Agricultural News

OSU Wheat Breeder Addresses Attacks on Wheat from Inside the Industry

Thu, 13 Feb 2014 18:18:22 CST

OSU Wheat Breeder Addresses Attacks on Wheat from Inside the Industry OSU Wheat Breeder Addresses Attacks on the Wheat from Inside the Industry
Recently, as a food crop, wheat has come under attack. Dr. Brett Carver, a wheat breeder at Oklahoma State University, calls the fears about gluten whipped up in the popular press "glutenoia." While he believes those attacks are overblown, he said the crop most popular in Oklahoma is coming under another sort of attack.

Carver will be speaking to the Oklahoma Crop Improvement Association Friday in Oklahoma City with a talk entitled: "If Wheat Could Talk, It Would Say, 'STOP Ragging on Me.'" He says that there are those inside the agribusiness industry who are talking the crop down because they say it has not kept pace with its counterparts.   (Carver spoke recently with Radio Oklahoma Network's Ron Hays. You can hear their full conversation by clicking on the LISTEN BAR at the bottom of this story.)

"Another way that wheat is being attacked-and it really doesn't need to be-and that is its ability to compete with other crops. And I think wheat may be a little bit better off than we think. We could certainly make it a lot better. That's why we do what we do. But I think we may not give it enough credit and in so doing that I think we look to other solutions that may or may not help us in the long run and overlook the big picture."

Carver's talk will explore ongoing efforts to improve wheat. He says some believe that wheat has fallen behind in the genetic modification area, an area that has proven phenomenally productive for corn and soybeans.

But, Carver says, "I think that's where the train leaves the tracks."

He said he is involved in publishing a book that will look at the progress made in 16 major field crops. "The gains that have not only been made in breeding programs, but on the farm. And I had the opportunity as one of the co-editors of that book to work on the chapters dealing with wheat, soybeans, barley and rice. And I want to tell you it was a really eye-opening experience for me. I knew already a little bit about the wheat. And, sure enough, our gains on the farm and in breeding programs could be better. But what startled me was that the gains on farm, especially, are no different and, in fact, may be a little bit better than soybeans.

"I think we're making a big mistake in saying that any advantage that soybeans or corn, for that matter, may have is strictly due to GMO. If you just look at the data, that's not what the data says. It doesn't say we shouldn't be using genetically-modified solutions to breeding; all it says is, again, look at the big picture and make sure that there are other alternatives to use."

Carver said he will be talking about double haploids, a technique which allows for speed breeding and reducing the amount of time it takes to bring new breeds to market. He said there is a double haploid cultivar of Gallagher that is in its third year of testing that would never have been considered before because it would have taken eight to ten years to get it to the same point.

"So a three year spread versus a ten-year spread, you can see what kind of a difference that can have long-term."

Carver says the wheat breeding program at OSU is in a lull right now as they are trying to decide what breeds they are going to release next.

"It's not a lull like we don't have anything," he says, "We just want something that will shine heads and shoulders above varieties like Gallagher and Iba and now Double Stop."

Carver says the OSU program is in a very strong position to be able to go forward in the entire spectrum of wheat improvement due to its multiple streams of revenue and support. He says there are corporations that would like to explore partnerships with the university's program that will promote further sharing of germplasm, without entangling obligations down the road.   


Brett Carver talks with Ron Hays about the value of breeding versus GMO for wheat improvement.
right-click to download mp3


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