Texas A&M AgriLife wheat team presented Vice Chancellor’s Award in Excellence

COLLEGE STATION – The Texas A&M TAM Wheat Improvement Team has been selected as a recipient of the 2012 Vice Chancellor’s Award in Excellence in the team collaboration category.

The honor was presented Jan. 8 during the Texas A&M AgriLife Conference in College Station. The Vice Chancellor’s Awards in Excellence were established in 1980 to recognize the commitment and outstanding contributions of faculty and staff across Texas A&M AgriLife and provide an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of those honored.

The TAM Wheat Improvement Team is comprised of members from Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Texas Foundation Seed Service. The seven-member team nominated for the Award in Excellence is a select number representing a larger group of individuals who contribute expertise and knowledge to the TAM variety improvement, the nomination stated.

The team representatives and the groups they represent are: Dr. Jackie Rudd, Center of Excellence in Wheat Improvement in Amarillo; Dr. Amir Ibrahim, Center of Excellence in Wheat Improvement in College Station; Dr. Lloyd Rooney, Wheat Quality Laboratory, College Station; Dr. Dirk Hays, Wheat Genetics and Genomics, College Station; Dr. Travis Miller, AgriLife Extension, College Station; Steve Brown, Texas Foundation Seed Service, Vernon; and Dr. John Sweeten, chair of the Small Grains Advisory Committee, Amarillo.

The nomination stated each group has an essential role, with variety development and management practices the role of research at the Centers of Excellence, and coordinating statewide variety trials and transferring best management practices to producers the role of AgriLife Extension.

The Wheat Quality Laboratory provides traditional and specialty end-use quality evaluation and research to assure the industry continues to source high quality Texas wheat, the nomination continued. The genetics and genomics component of research develops advanced technology to accelerate and increase the efficiency of the breeding process. Texas Foundation Seed Service knows the seed industry and provides insight into marketing partners. And the Small Grains Advisory Committee ties all the other groups together through implementation of the Small Grains Strategic plan.

“As the leaders for the Texas wheat breeding program, this team has led the way for the development of new, better-performing wheat varieties, including the popular TAM 111, TAM 112 and TAM 113, and has been instrumental in identifying genes of insect and disease resistance,” said Rodney Mosier, Texas Wheat Producers Association executive vice president in Amarillo. “These products have enhanced producer efficiency and profitability and continue to be the leading standard in the wheat industry.”

The TAM Wheat Improvement Team has developed, released and licensed 10 wheat, four oat and two triticale varieties in the past 10 years, according to the nomination.

A primary measure of success for a breeding program is that producers adopt the new varieties and by that criterion, the TAM breeding program has been very successful, said Danny Nusser, AgriLife Extension district administrator in Amarillo, in making the nomination.

Statistics shown in the nomination indicate TAM wheat varieties are the most widely grown varieties in Texas and across the Great Plains. In 2012, TAM wheat varieties were planted on 41 percent of Texas acres, 20 percent of Kansas acres, 14 percent of Nebraska and 11 percent of Colorado. TAM 111 was the No. 1 planted wheat variety in Texas, Kansas, Nebraska and the Oklahoma Panhandle.

The two most popular wheat varieties released under this team are TAM 111 in 2003 and TAM 112 in 2005. Drought tolerance, stripe rust resistance, greenbug resistance, wheat streak mosaic virus tolerance, high yield and excellent bread-making quality are some of the reasons for this high rate of adoption, the nomination stated.

The milling and baking quality of the TAM varieties continues to improve. Mosier said the wheat industry acknowledges that there has been a steady increase in baking quality from TAM 110 to TAM 111 to TAM 112, and now TAM 113 is considered “outstanding.”

In addition to variety development, the TAM Wheat Improvement Team is gaining recognition in genetics and genomics, the nomination stated. The team has participated in national grants to implement and apply marker-assisted selection in wheat. The team has published papers documenting genetic markers linked to bread baking quality, heat stress tolerance, rust resistance, greenbug resistance and wheat streak mosaic virus resistance.

“Adoption of drought-tolerant wheat cultivars is an important practice for producers in the Texas High Plains,” Nusser said. “During 2011, drought stress resulted in the loss of about 240 million bushels of winter wheat in the Southern Great Plains. Texas wheat production was down 80 million bushels from the 2010 crop, which is close to a $500 million loss to the Texas economy at today’s wheat prices.”

He said multi-year field studies have been conducted to understand mechanisms of drought tolerance in historic and modern wheat varieties from various public and private breeding programs. Through this process, newly released TAM wheat varieties were found to be consistently more drought tolerant than historic and other modem varieties.

“These findings will lead to the identification of some important physiological traits and molecular markers conferring drought and heat tolerance. These traits will be used in breeding wheat varieties with improved stress tolerance, combining yield and water-use efficiency.”

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