Wheat Breeding Program

Wheat breeding at Oregon state

Why Breed Wheat at OSU?

Wheat represents one of the most important global sources of vegetable-based protein. As one of the top ten commodity crops in Oregon, wheat breeding must produce high quality varieties adapted to environments in both western and eastern Oregon. Oregon provides a unique opportunity to breed wheat adapted to multiple environments with high disease pressure. Wheat breeding at Oregon State focuses on quality traits, resistance to diseases, and adaptability to a wide range of target environments throughout Oregon.


  • Short term
    • High yield
    • Disease resistance 
    • Improved end-use quality
  • Medium term
    • Enhancing virus resistance 
    • Enhancing septoria resistance
    • Developing hard red program
  • Long term
    • Abiotic stress tolerance (winter hardiness and low pH soils)

Current Research Projects

The OSU wheat breeding program works specifically on winter wheat. 70% of the program focuses on soft white winter wheat; the other 30% is on hard white and hard red winter wheat.

Small White Winter Wheat - Cultivar Development

  • Molecular markers
  • RIL development
  • Identification of markers for resistance to Stripe rust, C-stripe, Fusarium crown rot, and Septoria
  • Identification of markers for end-use quality traits
  • 2 gene imidazolinone resistance
    • Breeding
    • Di-haploids (wheat x maize)
  • Genetic transformation
    • ABA enhancing
    • BYDV siRNA gene slicing
  • End-use quality evaluations (soft and hard)
    • Gliadin work (Celiac Disease)
    • Falling number work

Hard Wheat - Hard White and Hard Red (New Program)

  • Low protein hard quality
    • Genotype x fertilizer response
    • Bx7 over-expressing gene

Graduate Student Expectations

Goal: Train students to run a breeding program so that they could step in as a field tech/breeder and be able to do every part of the job, including experimental design, planting, combining, note-taking, pesticide application, etc. Students are given at least two projects: one in the field and one in the greenhouse/lab, and must be able to give public presentations; practice obtained in seminar and at field days.

Breeding Methods

Modified bulk pedigree: First 3 generations bulk, subsequent generations pedigree. Mass (negative) selection incorporated. The Di-haploid breeding method is used to speed up the process. From first cross to variety release takes 10-15 years.


  • Oregon Wheat Commission
  • BASF
  • Oregon Ag. Research Foundation
  • Royalties from varieties


On campus:

Off campus:

  • Limagrain
  • BASF
  • Washington State University
  • University of Idaho

Graduate Student Projects

Current Students:

  • Christy McCarthy
  • Jiang (Scott) Liu
  • Kali Brandt
  • Mike Gallegos
  • Susanne Trittinger

Past Students:

  • Colleen Roseborough, Masters candidate - Examining a diverse group of US wheat varieties to look at gliadin content.
  • M. Dolores Vasquez, PhD candidate -  Mapping stripe rust resistance genes in wheat.
  • R. Chris Gaynor, MS - Agronomic trait QTL analysis in wheat.
  • Sarah Gehlhar, PhD - Relationship of protein composition to end-product functionality in Hard White Winter Wheat.
  • Daniel Jepsen, MS -  Developing improved nitrogen recommendations for dryland hard winter wheat in northeast Oregon
  • Martin Quincke, PhD - Breeding for cephalosporium stripe resistance.


  • Bread wheat, Triticum aestivum L..
  • Allohexaploid; Diploid progenitors: Triticum urartu (A), Aegilops speltoides (B), Aegilops tauschii (D)
  • Domesticated in Western Asia.
  • Market Classes: Durum, Hard Red Spring, Hard Red Winter, Soft Red Winter, Hard White, and Soft White.

Staff Profiles

Senior Faculty Research Assistants and Faculty Research Assistants

  • Mark Larson: field management and data management. Works on experimental design, planting, harvest, and oversees fields.
  • Adam Heesacker: lab, molecular markers, greenhouse, and winter crossing program.
  • Stephanie Jencks: nursery management, assisting planting, pesticide applications, plot maintenance, harvest.
  • Evan Hanson: extension field trials 

Publications and Varieties Released

See the Wheat Breeding website for more information: