Fusarium head blight (caused by Fusarium graminearum) is capable of causing yearly losses of more than $1 billion due to reduced wheat yield and grain quality. A research team, composed of James A. Anderson and Sixin Liu, University of Minnesota, and Shiaoman Chao, USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Biosciences Research Lab, Fargo, ND, has initiated a marker-assisted selection (MAS) approach to accelerate selection of grains for resistance to Fusarium. Although MAS for simply inherited traits has become commonplace in many plant breeding programs, there are few examples of its application with complex traits such as Fusarium head blight resistance. This team has identified a gene (Fhb1) that contributes to a relatively high resistance to Fusarium head blight in wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) and has validated its effect in additional populations in near-identical lines developed from segregating lines in their breeding program.
The establishment of the USDA-ARS Regional Small Grains Genotyping Centers has dramatically increased their capabilities to apply MAS by providing access to high-throughput DNA extraction and genotyping equipment. Virtually all U.S. wheat breeding programs working to build resistance for Fusarium head blight use the markers Anderson, Liu, and Chao developed to help select resistant lines and thereby reduce damage caused by this disease.
Their research was reported at the International Plant Breeding Symposium and published in the December 2007 journal of Crop Science.