Data from the stripe rust survey from 2010 shows that 17 races of the stripe rust pathogen were identified from 66 collections from California last season. None of these races can overcome the resistance of either Yr5 or Yr15.

Dubcovsky, who leads the UC Davis Wheat Breeding and Wheat Molecular Genetics Laboratories, made his breakthrough discover with a 2006 UC Discovery Grant in partnership with the California Wheat Commission.

The UC Discovery Grant promotes collaborations between University of California researchers and industry partners in the interest of supporting cutting-edge research. UCDG research projects are jointly funded by a UC Discovery Grant and an industry sponsor, like the California Wheat Commission, with a matching contribution.

Using this grant, Dubcovsky identified genes and transferred them into several California wheat varieties. "Without programs like the UC Discovery Grant, this research and knowledge would never get out of the laboratory," said Dubcovsky. "Now, we can transfer and advance the research so it benefits growers and consumers."

With a second UC Discovery Grant, Dubcovsky is partnering with the wheat commission to make wheat more hearty and nutritious, but also to maintain its long-term productivity and improve the market value of California wheat.

He was part of a team that cloned a gene that increases protein, iron and zinc in wheat, which provides about 20 percent of all the calories people consume worldwide. This June, he reported studies that could lead to a strain of wheat that could better tolerate freezing temperatures.

With the new discovery grant, Dubcovsky will focus on improving the nutritional value of California pasta and bread wheat, including increasing the concentration of resistant starch in the grain. This could improve dietary fiber and perhaps even make eaters feel full and cut down on overall calorie intake. New research also hopes to increase the grain protein concentration in wheat and discover new high grain protein genes that can help breed better varieties of wheat.

"Constant research is needed to stay ahead of disease that may harm crops, and we need to keep up with consumer demands for new, better and more nutritious varieties," said Lawrence Hunn, chair of the California Wheat Commission. The commission, funded by wheat growers, supports research to improve wheat quality and market development to provide growers with more outlets.

"Our partnership with UC researchers has always been critical to the viability of the wheat industry in California," said Hunn.