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EUROPEAN-SEED.COM I EUROPEAN SEED I 15 Exa mples of th is wou ld be the introduction by KWS of wheat variety Robigus in the U.K. which gave a step increase in yield and which has been the parent of a significant proportion of varieties produced in both the U.K. and other EU countries since its development Harold Verstegen head of breeding for KWS Cereals notes. Or in Germany where KWS introduced the variety Julius with high yield and particularly strong winter hardiness which proved its value in the winter of 201112 where severe winter weather significantly impacted the wheat crop. It also is more difficult to breed varieties of wheat for the higher quality markets with as high a yield as for those used in animal feed. This can be seen by yield increases achieved in Germany for different quality classes over a 40-year period from 1965 to 2005 Verstegen says. BIOTIC AND ABIOTIC STRESSES The major diseases of wheat that breeders aim to improve are fusarium septoria yellow rust and brown rust. There are also significant regional differences existing for these diseases and the priority is not the same in all countries. Fusarium is not an easy disease to breed resistance for as there are no known complete resistance genes available so a number of resistance genes need to be stacked to provide sufficient resistance levels. Septoria is now becoming a major focus for breeders since the chemistry available to farmers is becoming less effective and the resistance sources available need to be stacked to give sufficient resistance. For the rusts good chemistry exists to control these diseases as long as there is moderate resistance in the variety. Breeders have utilised many major genes and are continually working on incorporating more durable forms of resistance. Recently very aggressive populations of yellow rust have appeared in Europe which are increasing the need to focus on this disease. to climatic changes and new races appearing. A good example is the yellow rust Warrior which is present throughout Europe from Portugal to Eastern Europe. This has never been experienced by wheat breeders before. The importance is to have durable resistance and not main genes. Laurent Guerreiro Director of RAGT France is not so sure yet The final goal would be to have durable resistance but all the genetic mechanisms of this so called durable resistance are not well known. At the time being dealing with major genes and combining all these genes is still an important strategy. YIELD There has been significant success in increasing yield over time. In the U.K. for more than 60 years there has been an increase of between 0.5 per cent and one per cent per annum in yield. Until the mid 1980s this was created by a combination of genetic improvement and agronomic improvements including increasing use of nitrogen and agrochemicals. More recently in the U.K. the average on-farm yield for wheat appears to have plateaued and while there continues to be genetic improvements in yield in official trial testing of new varieties this is not being translated to increases on-farm. Philippe Lonnet head of cereal and protein crops breeding for Florimond Desprez in France concurs. There is still an increase in yield when you look at trial results. However there is also a reduced improvement or even a plateau when you look at farm yields. This has also been reported in France. Among the different reasons are a higher occurrence of drought periods during grain filling in the last decade induced by global warming. In Germany there have also been increases in yield of approximately one per cent per annum similar to those achieved in the U.K. In comparison to corn where yield increases above one per cent have been achieved both in Europe and in the United States the lack of investment in wheat breeding both in private and public programs has resulted in a much lower yield increase in the U.S. where increases are only 0.25 per cent per year. Guerreiro adds The fact that every European country is facing the same plateau leads us to take into account more significantly the GE interaction genotype environment interaction. Its quite complex because as breeding company we need to deal with new areas of expertise such as modelling pedoclimatic analysis or physiology studies. There are regional differences in terms of yield increase. It is always more difficult to get higher yield in areas already doing 11 tonnes per hectare than in areas at five to six tonnes per hectare Stragliati adds. The French varieties can compete very well in Eastern European countries like Serbia Romania Bulgaria and Hungary. We find several French varieties on the market such as Apache which is No. 1 in Serbia. So there is the possibility to travel some wheat varieties. To the farmer yield increase is often seen with the introduction of new landmark varieties bringing either a stepped increase in yield or increased yield accompanied by an improvement in other characteristics. Source FAOSTAT WHEAT YIELD UK Courtesy Ian Mackay NIAB German Wheat Quality Class Yield Increase Annum 19652005 E 25.5 kghaa A 26.0 kghaa B 32.0 kghaa C 37.3 kghaa