Canadian scientists have developed the first-ever fusarium-tolerant pastry wheat.

According to a report from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the pastry wheat will only be available to eastern Canadian producers. Food Ingredients Online, which released the report, says that fusarium-Head Blight is a major disease of wheat and barley resulting in significant yield and quality loss. The disease can also affect oats, rye, corn and some forage grasses. "Long distance spread of this pathogen primarily occurs through the transport of infected grain for feed or seed."

Fusarium also produces mycotoxins that can cause feeding and reproductive disorders in livestock, especially pigs. The presence of the mycotoxins also affects the taste of beer and causing gushing or excess foaming, as well as affecting the baking process. "The colour of the flour is changed and bread does not rise normally. Bread-making does not destroy the mycotoxins. The disease has cost the Canadian agri-food industry hundreds of millions of dollars," the report notes.

The new line, a soft red winter wheat often used for pastries, exhibits nearly four times fewer mycotoxins when exposed to the fungus than other wheat varieties on the market. The level of mycotoxins present in wheat can greatly affects yields, as well as grade and market value.

The new line has been approved by the Ontario Cereal Crops Committee, and registered for production in Eastern Canada under the name Wonder, which is expected to be in full commercial production by 2004. The line was developed by scientists with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) in Ottawa and Hyland Seeds in Blenheim, Ontario. The development of Wonder was led by Dr Radhey Pandeya of the Eastern Cereal and Oilseed Research Centre, and Hyland cereal breeders. The report adds that scientists in Western Canada are also in the process of developing similar varieties conducive to growing in that region.