Heartland Plant Innovations' Doubled Haploid Lab Will Speed Development of Wheat Varieties

Release Date: 
Saturday, January 1, 2011

MANHATTAN, Kan., Jan. 1, 2011 - Heartland Plant Innovations has launched a Wheat Doubled Haploid laboratory through the company's Advanced Plant Breeding Services business.

"This is truly an exciting moment in the history of wheat breeding," says Forrest Chumley, president and chief executive officer of Manhattan-based HPI. "Launching a doubled haploid laboratory gives a major boost to a key group of under-served wheat breeders and will establish valuable partnerships with HPI.

"Doubled Haploid technology allows plant breeders to create "pure lines" right away, rather than "segregating lines," says Bob Bowden, plant pathologist for USDA's Agricultural Research Service in Manhattan.

"The first cross between two parental wheat lines yields seeds that may contain genetic differences. When these seeds are planted, many new genetic combinations appear," Bowden explains. Think of how parents may have multiple children, each with different colored hair or eyes. "With wheat, it takes six or seven generations of inbreeding before things settle down and pure lines are developed," he says.

Of the 12 years or so it takes for a new winter wheat variety to be developed, about seven years of them are required to develop pure lines, he adds: "With doubled haploid technology, true breeding lines - which is what we're after - can be created in one step, cutting the time required to develop a new wheat variety almost in half."

Bowden adds that wheat breeders are not the only ones to gain from doubled haploids. "All wheat researchers can benefit. We can use doubled haploids to create mapping populations much more quickly. We can isolate particular genes that resist diseases or insects in just a few years, when it might have taken six to seven years to develop the pure lines in the traditional method. It all comes back to speed in developing the pure lines."

Efficiencies gained in selection, coupled with the use of additional modern breeding technologies such as molecular markers, a high-resolution physical map and a sequenced genome could shorten the time required for identifying and cloning important genes to a few months. And, breeders can make selections sooner, with greater confidence and efficiency.

"Breeders can work with smaller populations and conduct fewer generations of back-crossing," Chumley says. "The savings in terms of time and money will be tremendous."
 Thanks to funding from the Kansas Bioscience Authority, HPI and Kansas State University have developed an agreement whereby HPI can use laboratory space and equipment at K-State to launch the doubled haploid initiative. Dr. Chenggen Chu, a doubled haploid specialist from North Dakota State University, has been hired by HPI to head the laboratory.

He begins in October.In time, HPI's doubled haploid facility will be housed in a new office, greenhouse and laboratory complex on K-State's north campus. For now, however, the goal is to get the program established, because orders from public and private institutions for doubled haploid lines are beginning to roll in.

"Our goal is large-scale, economical production of wheat DH lines to accelerate variety development, gene discovery and trait development," Chumley says.

Heartland Plant Innovations, Manhattan, Kansas was created by the farmer-stakeholders of the Kansas Wheat Commission and Kansas Association of Wheat Growers in 2009. A number of private and public agribusiness companies and individuals are investors in the business, which is intended to boost research and technology for wheat, sorghum and plants native to Kansas.

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