hand with wheat seeds

Wheat Breeding and Genetics

The CSU Wheat Breeding and Genetics Program was initiated in 1963 to provide Colorado’s wheat industry with a source of locally developed winter wheat varieties with superior adaptation for Colorado’s tough climatic conditions.  

We pursue our goals in close partnership with the Colorado wheat industry. Our primary program goals are: 

  • Develop improved hard red and hard white wheat varieties and germplasm adapted for the diverse production conditions in Colorado and the west central Great Plains.
  • Conduct applied-basic research to improve understanding of genetic and environmental factors that affect wheat yield and end-use quality. 

Achievements in Past Two Years

Wheat Stem Sawfly

Significant progress achieved in addressing the vulnerability of Colorado wheat to wheat stem sawfly (Cephus cinctus Norton), which causes more than $50 million in production losses annually in Colorado. 

New Cultivars

Released two hard red winter wheat cultivars, and one hard white winter wheat cultivar, all with a semi-solid stem for resistance to wheat stem sawfly 

Regional Coordination

Improved coordination, bringing together university and USDA scientists from Colorado, Nebraska, Montana, Kansas, and North Dakota.


Obtained $2.1 million in extramural funding.

Outreach and Education

Hosted 20 wheat field days in rural communities in Eastern Colorado to discuss issues related to wheat production, wheat variety characteristics and variety selection, reaching more than 700 growers and state industry representatives in attendance. 

Radio Spotlight

Program Lead Esten Mason was interviewed by KUNC on the impact of wheat stem sawfly in rural farming communities. Visit KUNC.org website to get the full story.

On the Horizon

The program is collaborating on a $15 million USDA-NIFA coordinated project: Leveraging High-Throughput Genotyping and Phenotyping Technologies to Accelerate Wheat Improvement. This project will lead to more routine use of unoccupied aerial systems (drones) for data collection and selection decisions in the breeding program to complement our strong genomics assisted breeding pipeline. 

drone in wheat field