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Wheat Research

The primary mandate of the California Wheat Commission is to support research that improves California wheat quality and marketability.  The Commission's partnership with University of California researchers has always been critical to the viability of the wheat industry in California.

Jorge Dubcovsky UC Davis wheat breeder california wheat commission

California is fortunate to have Dr. Jorge Dubcovsky leading the Wheat Breeding Program and Molecular Genetics laboratory at the University of California, Davis.  You can view some of his lab's accomplishments on his website:

Dubcovsky, originally from Argentina, is a world-renowned wheat breeder. He is a member of the National Academy of Science, a recipient of the Wolf World Award in Agriculture, and the Project Leader of a five year, $25 million grant awarded by USDA's Competitive Grants Program.  The Triticeae Coordinated Agricultural Project (T-CAP) is developing methods and new cultivars to minimize the damage of climate change on crop production.  Their long-term objective is a 10% reduction in both nitrogen and water use in barley and wheat production through the development of improved varieties adapted to the climate of the coming century. TCAP is also helping to train wheat breeders in universities across the country.

The California Wheat Commission was the industry partner for two 4-year grants awarded to Dr. Dubcovsky under the U.C. Discovery Grant program. The first 4-year grant, ending in 2010, was titled "Molecular tools to engineer California wheat varieties resistant to stripe rust (Puccinia striiformis)".   The purpose of this grant was to use molecular markers to map stripe rust resistant genes and, as a result, several new genes for stripe rust were discovered.  Most of the wheat varieties now marketed in California are resistant to stripe rust. This grant was matched dollar-for-dollar by the State, with $610,800 total funding for the wheat breeding program.

The second 4-year project, which completed in 2014, was titled "Improving California Wheat Quality and Nutritional Value" and included research on reducing cadmium uptake in Durum wheat, increasing the concentration of resistant starch in the grain, and increasing grain protein concentration and quality. The Commission's total 4-year funding was $480,000 ($120,000/year) and was matched by $336,000 of additional funding from the State of California.

With the end of the shared funding available under the Discovery Grant program, the Commission increased its funding for the wheat breeding program to $275,000 for FY14/15 and $325,000 for FY15/16. Funding decisions are made at the Commission's April meeting.


Phil Mayo UC Davis Variety Trials Collaborator Meeting
The University of California, Davis conducts regional trials in fourteen locations around the state to evaluate the agronomic performance of public and private small grains varieties.   The results of these trials are summarized in the Commission's Certified Wheat Seed Buying Guide, but the details can be seen on the University's small grains page.

The Small Grains page of the University of California's website has a wealth of information, including Agronomy Progress reports, a Small Grains Production Manual, Pest Management of Small Grains, Cultivar Descriptions, and Characteristics of California Cultivars.

The California Wheat Collaborator Program provides an opportunity to evaluate wheat varieties being considered for release in the California market. Breeders are invited to submit their most promising varieties to be grown out in specific locations following agreed-upon agronomic practices. After harvest, Phil Mayo at UC Davis sends out samples to milling and baking quality labs around the country (including the Commission's lab) to be milled and baked into bread or made into pasta. Then, in the Fall, all interested parties in the wheat value chain gather in Davis to discuss each variety's performance. Agronomic data is also made available, but the focus is on end-use quality.


In 2011, the Commission established a new competitive grant program to encourage UC Cooperative Extension specialists and farm advisors to conduct field-based research that would provide practical information for wheat growers. The program also provided funding for mentorships to encourage students to consider UCCE careers. Since its inception, the researchers have completed a range of research projects with over $275,000 in funding.

Results of all the projects can be can be found in the Archive of Research Projects.

In the fall of 2014, the Commission approved the latest round of projects and mentorships, including:
  • Impact of N Fertilization Treatments on Residual Soil Nitrate Accumulation - San Joaquin Valley and N. CA - $9,000 - continuation of last year's project
  • Seeding Rate and Planting Date Effects on Yield - Siskiyou County - $6,700
  • Evaluating Spring Wheat Variety Performance in Organic Environments - Mendocino - $5,242  - continuation of last year's project
  • Planting Date and Cultivar Effects on Winter Wheat Yield  -  Siskiyou  -  $5,600
  • Calibrating In-field Diagnostics Tools to Improve Nitrogen Management for High Yield and High Protein Wheat  -  Sacramento Valley  -  $9,828 - continuation of last year's project
  • Mentorship for Eddie Padilla, who will work with Farm Advisor Steve Wright in Visalia - $5,000
  • Mentorship for student to work with Sacramento Valley Farm Advisor Mark Lundy - $2,000