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Future Trends of Wheat and New Breeding Technologies in Central Europe


1. Future Trends
In view of the still long development period of 9 to 12 years it is essential for the survival of the breeding enterprises to foresee what demands growers, processors and consumers are likely to make on future varieties.

At present the following trends can be detected in wheat growing. In the main they have economic reasons, ignore experience in plant growing and make great demands on the varieties of the future in respect of stress tolerance in general:
• The area used for wheat growing is increasing.
• Leaf crops, which are very good preceding crops for wheat, are decreasing.
• This will result in a steadily rising percentage of stubble wheat or even permanent wheat growing.
• The sowing time is being moved forward to September even in locations with mild weather conditions.
• Care in tilling the soil in general, and the handling of stubble in particular, is declining, and it is likely to decline even further as energy costs rise.

A likely result of these "sins of crop rotation" is that greater demands will be made on the health of the varieties. In particular, progress in breeding will be needed in respect of the leaf diseases associated with crop succession and also the entire foot-rot complex, especially Pseudocercosporella herpotrichoides (stem break eye spot, strawbreaker) and Ophiobolus graminis (blackleg disease, take-all).

As with barley, a shift of the sowing season into September permits greater penetration of the soil by the roots during the autumn. In conjunction with mild winters, this results in a high risk of infection with viruses transmitted by soil fungi. And as with winter barley, we shall have to reckon with a similar virus that is specific to wheat and already on the advance in the countries on Germany's western borders.

2. New Breeding Technologies in Central Europe
In addition to the conventional methods (Fig. 7), more and more procedures based on biotechnology are becoming available to breeders for the development of new varieties. It has to be decided from the point of view of speed, reliability of selection and cost which method or combination of methods is the most promising. With all diseases that are difficult to study and record with sufficient accuracy, such as the foot-rot complex, and where there is a highly polygenic basis for resistance, as with ear Fusarium, and also in the case of diseases that do not normally occur in the nursery, it would seem helpful to develop molecular markers which can then be used to carry out specific selection in young generations.
Fig. 7: Castration of a wheat flower
The use of molecular markers can also considerably shorten the breeding procedure in back-crossing programmes with non-adapted genotypes, since selection can be carried out for the genome of the parent as well as for the target gene. However, a condition for this is reasonably close and evenly distributed cover of the genome by these markers.

This has nothing to do with genetic engineering in the proper sense of the term, since the latter has not yet passed the basic research stage in cereal breeding. And this situation is unlikely to change as long as the majority of consumers do not accept genetic modification and until optimized and efficient constructs
are available for transformation. But in the long term genetic engineering promises to bring considerable progress in breeding through the use of genetic diversity in conjunction with the conventional methods.
From the point of view of breeding the quality characteristics have a high level of hereditability, i.e. the genes of the variety have a very strong influence on quality. For this reason there should be a long-term catalogue of breeding requirements, integrated into the development of new varieties, for use as starch, brewing or biscuit wheat on the lines of the successful selection for baking quality.

The growing of varieties tested in Germany for three years by the BSA, the resulting precise and comprehensive description of quality and consideration of these characteristics in the choice of varieties would prevent a great many of the problems that made it difficult to market the crops of the last three years.

The value of a variety is determined by a number of important growing, resistance and quality characteristics as well as by the yield. More than in the past, perhaps, there is a need to make use of these in the varieties of today and tomorrow in organic farming. Then a little less may be more in the wheat harvest as in so many other fields.

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