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The First Ergot-Resistant Durum has Been Developed

In a Canadian first, ergot resistance has been incorporated into a durum line, called DT2033. It has a stack of high-value traits including intermediate resistance to fusarium head blight (FHB), another toxic disease. Developing DT2033 involved the integration of state-of-the-art molecular techniques, including genomic sequencing, gene expression analysis, and high-resolution genetic mapping.

The research is being done jointly by AAFC Lethbridge, AAFC Swift Current and AAFC Morden in Manitoba.

These approaches helped create high-throughput molecular tools, enabling the precise selection of ergot-resistant genes during the breeding process.

“We believe DT2033 will become the next durum wheat variety grown on Canadian farms,” researcher Yuefeng Ruan of AAFC Swift Current says.

Ergot-resistant durum wheat would be particularly important for Canada due to several reasons:

  • Grain Quality and Safety: Ergot is a fungal disease that affects cereal crops, including durum wheat, and produces toxic alkaloids. These toxins can cause serious health problems in humans and animals if ingested. Therefore, ergot resistance in durum wheat is crucial for maintaining the safety and quality of the grain.
  • Economic Impact: Durum wheat is a significant crop in Canada, and the presence of ergot can lead to grain downgrading or rejection at elevators, resulting in economic losses for farmers. Ergot-resistant varieties would help in minimizing these losses.
  • Export Market: Canada is a major exporter of cereal crops, and ergot is a grain grading factor that can affect the marketability of these exports. Having ergot-resistant durum would ensure that Canadian exports meet international safety standards and maintain their competitive edge.
  • Agricultural Sustainability: Developing ergot-resistant crops is part of a broader strategy to manage plant diseases sustainably. It reduces the reliance on chemical fungicides, which can have environmental impacts.
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