A better screening tool to help combat a common pest of wheat

Primary Author: Samuel Prather

Faculty Sponsor: Michael Pumphrey


Primary College/Unit: Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences

Category: Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences

Campus: Pullman




Principle topic:

Hessian Fly [Mayetiola destructor (Say)] is a major pest of wheat in Washington as well as the entire USA. In its larval stage, Hessian fly feeds off the stems of wheat plants causing severe yield loss. While there are pesticides and management practices to combat Hessian fly, because of Hessian fly’s unique life cycle most are not effective. The best way to combat Hessian fly is through use of genetically resistant wheat varieties with one of the 35 known Hessian fly resistance genes. The impediment for breeders developing Hessian fly resistance varieties is a fast-cost-effective way to screen for the resistance, as the current method takes a long time and is very expensive.


Using a genetics technique known as linkage mapping my project’s goal was to find the genetic location of one of the 35 known genes that has been shown to work in Washington. And then create genetic markers which are an assay to test for that gene.


After leaning the location of our Hessian fly resistance gene of interest I created 3 genetic markers and validated them on a large panel of varieties. The results show these markers to be highly (>98%) accurate at detecting the presence of the gene. The old method of testing for this gene used by our lab cost ~$150 per test and took about 2 months. This new method using the genetic marker assay takes less than a week and cost ~$1 per test.