Rebecca Regan Update on K-State Wheat Breeding Program

(Rebecca Regan) I am a research associate professor in the Department of Grain Science at Kansas State University and I also am the Director of the Wheat Quality Lab. Well, in the wheat breeding program, it’s very complex, and the wheat breeders, they have many different end-users to satisfy. So, of course, producers want high yields, and millers want big fat kernels that have a lot of flour in them, and bakers want high gluten quality, so they want strong, in our field of work, in our area, where we are growing hard winter wheats, their main end-users for pan bread. For our wheat’s high gluten content, a nice strong quality gluten, high protein, those are the types of things that the bakers want. For the breeding program, we receive samples of wheat, experimentalized at different stages of development. We measure some wheat characteristics like test weight. We have an instrument called a single kernel characterization system, which we can use to measure kernel diameter, the kernel weight, kernel moisture content and the hardness. This is the hardness or the force it would take to crush a kernel. Hard wheats should have a hard kernel texture, so we just want to verify that in the breeding program the varieties that we’re working on do have that desired hard kernel texture. We have a small laboratory mill, so we will mill that wheat into flour. The flour then goes through a mixing test. We have very small mixers, called the mixergraph. It’s based on 10 grams of flour. We use that to mix. We’ll determine the optimum water level that should be added, the mixing time, and by looking at the curve that’s generated in that test, we get an idea of some strength properties of the mixed dough. Then using that information, we take that mixing time and mixing water absorption on into bread making. We actually do bake bread in the lab because we are in an area that is developing bread wheats, so the ultimate test is to actually bake bread and see if the wheat makes a good loaf of bread. Using that mixing test, that tells us how much water and mixing time and we actually make a pup loaf. It’s based on 100 grams of flour, so it’s just a small – but they’re just really cute little small loaves, but it is a good method and sufficient to tell us if there is a good volume response. Also, I cut then the loaves open and look at the insides. I look at how the air cells or the crumb grain characteristics are, and they I can, by that, it tells me a lot about the strength of the dough and the resulting bread. We are very fortunate in Kansas that we do have a lot of support. The Wheat Commission is right here in Manhattan; the American Institute of Baking is here in Manhattan. The Federal Hard Winter Wheat Quality Lab is here, so a great resource from different aspects of the industry. Then, of course, the Agronomy Department and the Grain Science Department at K-State. Over the recent years, the technology has advanced, and we are using that technology in the wheat breeding program. The last maybe three years, I have done some collaborations or been involved in collaborations with the wheat breeders and plant pathologists and other professors and researchers in agronomy in K-State. We have been working on using genomic selection and so just understanding the genetics in the wheat plant and how that impacts end-user quality. We’ve been utilizing the data that we collect as part of our participation in the program. Others have been measuring the genetics and making correlations, so that to try to determine what different genes impact end-user quality. With that kind of information, we are able to get more valuable information and quicker, and so to advance our breeding efforts and maintain the success of our program.

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