Colorado State University Introduces New Wheat Resistant to Russian Wheat Aphid

Colorado State University recently released a new variety of winter wheat that is based on the popular Akron variety with the addition of resistance to the Russian wheat aphid. The new variety, called Ankor, is available to farmers this fall.

The new variety was developed with a conservative, traditional breeding technique called backcrossing. This procedure added a gene that causes Russian wheat aphid resistance from Halt, the Colorado State variety, to the Akron wheat variety through cross breeding.

"The product of backcross breeding is usually very similar to the parent variety – in this case, Akron," said Scott Haley, Colorado State University wheat breeder with the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, who led the project. "In this case, that definitely holds true. Except for its aphid resistance, Ankor is a minor rearrangement of Akron. It retains the qualities that make Akron a desirable variety choice in Colorado."

Akron is grown on about 25 percent of all acres devoted to Colorado winter wheat, the largest percentage held by any single variety. It is a popular variety because it produces high dryland yields, has vigorous growth in the fall and spring, and the structure of the head of this variety of wheat may protect the plant from hail damage.

The Russian wheat aphid first entered Colorado in 1986. Since then, it has caused more than $300 million in yield losses and pesticide costs in wheat and barley crops in the state.

Additional wheat varieties that are resistant to the Russian wheat aphid are Prairie Red, Yumar, Prowers, Prowers 99 and Halt, the source of Russian wheat aphid resistance in Ankor.

"Developing varieties that are resistant to the Russian wheat aphid is the most cost-effective and environmentally sound control of this insect," said Haley.

Ankor was tested around the state in two-year variety trials on 10 privately owned farms with Colorado State Agricultural Experiment Station staff.

Researchers at Colorado State began developing the variety in 1994. The variety was tested for resistance in greenhouse tests on the Colorado State campus before being field tested. In the two years of field tests, Ankor has produced very similar dryland yields as Akron. Other tests have shown that Ankor also is slightly more suited to milling and bread making than Akron.

Ankor may be grown and sold only as certified seed by licensed Colorado Seed Research Foundation members. Through the agreement established in 1995 between the Colorado Seed Growers Association, the Colorado Wheat Research Foundation and Colorado State, the marketing rights and ownership to Ankor were transferred to the Colorado Wheat Growers Association. Royalties assessed on the sale of Ankor seed will be returned to Colorado State to support wheat breeding and wheat-related research.