MANHATTAN -- A new study about the common problem of preharvest sprouting, or PHS, in wheat is nipping the crop-killing issue in the bud.

Researchers at Kansas State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service, or USDA-ARS, found and cloned a gene in wheat named PHS that prevents the plant from preharvest sprouting. Preharvest sprouting happens when significant rain causes the wheat grain to germinate before harvest and results in significant crop losses.

"This is great news because preharvest sprouting is a very difficult trait for wheat breeders to handle through breeding alone," said Bikram Gill, university distinguished professor of plant pathology and director of the Wheat Genetics Resource Center. "With this study, they will have a gene marker to expedite the breeding of wheat that will not have this problem."

Gill conducted the study with Guihau Bai, a researcher with the Hard Winter Wheat Genetics Research Unit of the USDA-ARS, adjunct professor of agronomy at Kansas State University and the study's lead author. Also involved were Harold Trick, professor of plant pathology; Shubing Liu, research associate in agronomy; Sunish Sehgal, senior scientist in plant pathology; Jiarui Li, research assistant professor; and Meng Lin, doctoral student in agronomy, all from Kansas State University; and Jianming Yu, Iowa State University.

Their study, "Cloning and Characterization of a Critical Regulator for Pre-Harvest Sprouting in Wheat," appears in a recent issue of the scientific journal Genetics.

The finding will to be most beneficial to white wheat production, which loses $1 billion annually to preharvest sprouting, according to Gill.

He said consumers prefer white wheat to the predominant red wheat because white wheat lacks the more bitter flavor associated with red wheat. Millers also prefer white wheat to red because it produces more flour when ground. The problem is that white wheat is very susceptible to preharvest sprouting.

"There has been demand for white wheat in Kansas for more than 30 years," Gill said. "The very first year white wheat was grown in the state, though, there was rain in June and then there was preharvest sprouting and a significant loss. The white wheat industry has not recovered since and has been hesitant to try again. I think that this gene is a big step toward establishing a white wheat industry in Kansas."

Gill said identifying the PHS gene creates a greater assurance before planting a crop that it will be resistant to preharvest sprouting once it grows a year later. Wheat breeders can now bring a small tissue sample of a wheat plant into a lab and test whether it has the preharvest sprouting resistance gene rather than finding out once the crop grows.

Much of the work to isolate the PHS gene came from Gill and his colleagues' efforts to fully sequence the genome -- think genetic blueprint -- of common wheat. Wheat is the only major food plant not to have its genome sequenced. The genome of wheat is nearly three times the size of the human genome.

Researchers were able to study sequenced segments of the common wheat genome and look for a naturally occurring resistance gene. Gill said without the sequenced segments, finding the PHS gene would have been impossible.

Writing a Range Plan and a Ranch Drought Plan Workshops Set for August 26th and 27th

McPherson, KS - Has the stress and worry of the present drought caused you to question the way in which you make management decisions on the grazing lands you operate? If your grazing lands or pastures could talk, would they answer the question the same as you?

Over the past couple of growing seasons, statements often heard are "I don't like the way my pastures look" or "I sure have had an increase in weedy-type plants" since the drought has been in place. Both are indications that we are starting to question the impact of our decisions or are at least concerned about the plant communities we have responsibility for managing.

With droughts which have staying power like this current one, the stress to both the land and the manager can accumulate. This leaves one hopefully asking the question, "How can I pre-decide actions to take when these conditions arise or persist?"

The answer to that question is to gain a better understanding of how climate and plant communities interact with one another, and when do I need to act on pre-decided management decisions based upon observations?

The Kansas Graziers Association along with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and Kansas Farmers Union will be hosting two one-day drought plan writing workshops, in late August:

Monday 8/26: NRCS Office at 3020 W. 18th, Emporia

Tuesday 8/27: NRCS Conference Center at 747 Duvall, Salina

Presenters include: Kansas NRCS Range Specialists David Kraft, Dwayne Rice and Doug Spencer. Also added to the program are experienced ranchers Jane Koger (at Emporia) and Ted Alexander (at Salina) who have developed and implemented drought plans that have greatly benefited their ranches.

Attendees will be encouraged to:

Identify critical decision dates at their ranch location;

Pinpoint decisions which they can make before actual drought conditions are present; and

Seek the development of a ranch forage inventory which is the benchmark for fine tuning all decisions on the ranch.

Each workshop will begin at 9:30 a.m. and finish mid-afternoon. There is no cost for this workshop. Lunch will not be provided; a break at noon is scheduled.

Space is limited, so please RSVP. Visit the Amazing Grazing blog for project info, event details and to RSVP: kansasgraziers.blogspot.com. For information contact Mary at kfu.mary@gmail.com or call 785-562-8726.