Closing the Gap: Organic Wheat Variety Release in Eastern Washington

The objective of this research is to evaluate advanced wheat breeding lines in organic systems for potential variety release to farmers in the Palouse region of Washington State. In 2012, two market classes in particular were evaluated: soft white winter wheat and winter spelt. The 2011-2012 field trials provided yield and test weight data for all lines; nutritional analysis in the form of mineral concentration is currently underway for the seed harvested in 2011 and in 2012. We anticipate the results from these nutritional tests by March 2013. The soft white and spelt breeding lines were grown in separate yield trials at two different sites on the certified organic Boyd Farm (Figure 1) outside of Pullman during the 2010/2011 and 2011/2012 growing seasons. We found significant differences among all varieties in each trial for grain yield, test weight, 1000 kernel weight, protein content and plant height. High yielding breeding lines were found in the soft white trial as well as the spelt trial that indicate the potential for varietal release. At present, different types of release are being considered. These include: germplasm release, open-source variety release, and non-exclusive licensing varietal release. Mineral concentration results are anticipated to be available soon and this could provide an additional avenue for the release of a wheat variety with a value-added trait such as higher micronutrient concentration.

Grant Information

  • Project ID: 090
  • Project Status: Complete


  • Principal Investigator(s): Murphy, K.
  • Grant Amount: $53,568


  • Principal Investigator(s): Murphy, K.


Short-Term: The short term impact of this study was a significant increase in knowledge of, and awareness about, the role of genotype (variety) in organic grain-based cropping systems. Specific breeding lines of barley, spelt and soft white winter wheat have been identified that perform well in organic systems. Sources of genetic resistance to important diseases including stripe rust, stem rust and powdery mildew have been identified and incorporated into breeding material.

Intermediate-Term: The release of ‘Muir’ barley in 2013, the upcoming release of two spelt varieties, and the release of two to four wheat germplasm in the near future should have a positive impact on organic grain production and breeding. Muir barley is very disease resistant and would bean excellent option for organic growers in the Palouse region of Washington State. The impact of these variety and germplasm releases will depend upon grower adoption; therefore, continued outreach will be of critical importance. The soft white wheat germplasm to be released will be divided into two groups; one release of one to two breeding lines for high yields in organic systems and a second release of two to three breeding lines for high mineral concentration in organic systems.

Long-Term: Within the next two years, we intend on releasing a hulless food barley variety as well as one to two hulless spelt varieties. This study will lead to the development of barley and spelt genotypes rich in bioactive components, which will have the potential to deliver health promoting effects upon consumption. Barley and spelt rich in micronutrients and/or health-promoting bioactive components is expected to promote the interest of food processors in utilizing more hulless food barley and spelt in manufacturing processed food products as a functional ingredient as well as increase consumers’ interest in incorporating more of these grains in their diet. This will be potentially helpful for preventing and controlling the diet-related, prevalent and growing human health problems we are experiencing in this country such as coronary heart diseases, diabetes, obesity and cancers.