Research Project

Multi-pronged Fusarium head blight management strategy in Western Canada through insight into pathogen virulence mechanisms

Curtis Pozniak, University of Saskatchewan

Start Date: December 15, 2020                   

End Date: April 30, 2025

AWC’s funding: $27,600  

Fusarium head blight (FHB) is the most serious fungal disease affecting wheat production in Canada. Warm and moist weather conditions favour FHB infection and cause huge losses for Saskatchewan farmers, with >50% of seed samples infected with Fusarium in 2016. Durum wheat (CWAD) is an important crop for Canada and Saskatchewan, with ~5.0 million acres grown in Canada in 2019. It supplied more than a third of the durum exported worldwide. Durum is one of the most FHB susceptible classes of wheat; therefore, it is a priority to optimize and integrate FHB control methods to allow durum cultivation in southeast Saskatchewan and in Manitoba, where it was abandoned due to the disease. In addition to direct yield loss, economic damage due to FHB is also attributed to the accumulation of mycotoxins in grain such as the trichothecene, deoxynivalenol (DON). DON has been linked to virulence of F. graminearum and likely facilitates disease spread within wheat heads. The characterization of virulence and DON production genes in F. graminearum is a key step toward the identification of the corresponding susceptibility genes in wheat, which could be breed out to enhance FHB resistance.

The project has the following objectives:

1. Tapping resistance from the elite gene pool

2. Expanding broadspectrum stripe rust resistance into Canadian germplasm

3. Exploring novel sources of resistance in a global gene bank collection