Va. Tech researchers take a look at Clearfield wheat
By JANE W. GRAHAM
BLACKSBURG, Va. — Virginia Tech small grain scientists are still doing experiments on BASF’s Clearfield wheat to see if they can develop a strain that is suitable for Virginia wheat producers.
In a recent telephone interview, Dr. Wade Thomason, Extension small grains specialist, reported that Dr. Carl Griffey, a researcher at Tech, is working on developing wheat strains that are resistant to the herbicide Beyond.
Such an herbicide would make it possible to kill weeds in wheat fields without killing the wheat.
The research at Tech is funded by BASF, Thomason said.
He said the company is pleased with the agronomic results of Griffey’s research so far but wants to be sure that the product is “110-percent safe” before it release the wheat for sale.
Thomason said that Griffey had developed a line of wheat with one gene that is resistant to the herbicide and was happy with that.
Now he is working to develop one that has two genes with the resistance he and the company want.
The decision to release a herbicide resistant strain in Virginia is up to BASF, he indicated.
During a field day last year, Thomason discussed the herbicide tolerant Clearfield wheat with some Virginia farmers adding that BASF began working with the system back in the 1980s and the first Clearfield varieties were released nearly a decade ago.
In more recent years Virginia Tech Plant Breeder Carl Griffey has included, first one gene and now two genes with tolerance to Beyond herbicide, into varieties more commonly grown in Virginia.
The experiments have tested Jamestown, a popular wheat variety in Virginia, Thomason said.
This variety, containing both one and two herbicide tolerant genes, was tested at Virginia Tech’s Eastern Virginia Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Warsaw, Va.
Thomason said the challenge now becomes finding the varieties that will fit the best for Virginia growers.
Currently, Thomason said tested varieties have not been found to have 100-percent tolerance and have not been labeled for application in Virginia.
Beyond, and similar herbicides, are known as ALS inhibitors meaning it blocks the biosynthesis of the branched chain amino acids needed for plant growth.
At last year’s field day, Thomason noted that the Clearfield technology is not a genetically modified organism, but rather a mutation — which produces an altered form of the ALS enzyme that is not apparently affected by the herbicide at normal application rates.