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Insect resistance. Hessian fly.

Background information

The Hessian fly, Mayetiola destructor, is one of the most destructive pests of wheat worlwide. In the US the insect was first reported in Long Island, New York, around 1779, and today it can be found in most wheat-growing regions. Although wheat is the preferred target, the fly can also attack other cereal crops. Different factors facilitate its the spread and enhance its virulence, such as the introduction of wheat in new areas, the use of early varieties, the application of double-crop no-tillage agricultural practices, new fly variants virulent against formerly effective resistance genes and the deployment of susceptible cultivars.

Usually there are two generations per year, one in Spring and the other in early Fall. Flies that survived through Winter as pupae on wheat plants emerge in Spring and lay their eggs on the leaves. No-tilling practices leave a wheat stubble after harvest where the fly survive through Summer in pupal stage. The second generation of flies emerges in fall and lay their eggs on volunteer or early planted wheat, or on barley and rye if wheat plants are absent. Larvae soon hatch from the eggs and move below ground, near the base of the stem. The larvae complete their growth and pass the Winter as puparium, completing the cycle.

The Hessian fly damages leaf and stem cells to extract the juices it feeds on. This reduces plant vigour and the weak and stunted plants may die in winter. Plants attacked in Spring produce stalks that break easily before harvest. Hessian fly can be controlled destroying the stubble after harvest, which is not possible in no-till conservation systems, seeding after the peak date of adult fly emergence, destroying volunteer wheat, but the most reliable and effective practice it the use of resistant cultivars.

There are sixteen Hessian fly biotypes based on their response to a set of wheat resistance genes (H3, H5, H6, and H7H8). Currenly the most prevalent and virulent biotype is "L". Thirty two Hessian fly resistance genes, designated H1 to H31 plus Hdicoccum have been identified in wheat (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Among these, H9, H13, H25 and Hdicoccum are resistant to biotype "L".

The number of Hessian fly populations has been increasing over the last years, and within the US heavily infested wheat fields have been observed more frequently in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas (6). Among the 22 resistance genes tested on these fly populations, only five genes (H13, H21, H25, H26, and Hdic) were consistently effective in all of them, including the highly virulent Kay-OK-GH-06 population found at Kay County, Oklahoma, providing protection to more than 80% of the plants.

Gene H9 was transferred from the source line Elva (Triticum turgidum) to line Ella, and then was transferred from Ella into Newton by six cycles of backcrossing and selection to produce line Iris (7). H9 was originally mapped on chromosome 5A (8), but more recent work indicates that H9, H10 and H11 are located on chromosome arm 1AS (9, 10)

Gene H13 is derived from KU 2076, Triticum tauschii (Coss.) Schmal., via a synthetic hybrid KU 221-19 developed at Kyoto University, Japan (3). The wheat germplasm line, Molly, with H13, was developed from the cross, Newton*7/3/KU221-19/Eagle//KS806 (7). Liu et al (11) revised the chromosomal location of H13, and determined it lies on the distal part of chromosome arm 6DS.

Gene H25 is derived from rye and is resistant to most North American biotypes, a segment carrying the gene was transferred to several wheat lines to different chromosomal locations (12).

The gene H26 was found in Aegilops tauschii and introgressed into common wheat (1) and synthetic hexaploid wheat. Currently H26 is one of the most effective genes to control populations of Hessian fly that are virulent against several other sources of resistance.

Gene H31 was identified in an accession of tetraploid durum wheat and transferred to hexaploid wheat. H31 also shows resistance to the biotype L., it is located on chromosome arm 5BS (5).

A resistance gene named "Hdicoccum" was found in accession PI 94641 of cultivated emmer wheat (T. turgidum ssp. dicoccum) and transferred to wheat germplasm. The hard red winter wheat line KS99WGRC42 contains the "Hdicoccum" and can be obtained from the authors (see below, available germplasm).


Microsatellite, SCAR and RAPD markers have been developed that cosegregate with several Hessian fly resistance genes useful for breeding. Click on the corresponding link on the left panel to see the experimental details.

Available germplasm

Iris (H9), Molly (H13), KS92WGRC20 (H25) and P921696 (H31) are available from the USDA-ARS Small Grains Germplasm Collection, Aberdeen, ID for use as parent donor lines. IDO584 carries the H25 gene in a spring background, and can be requested to Ed Souza.

KS99WGRC42 is an F5-derived line of the cross Karl 92/PI 94641//Jagger*2. KS99WGRC42 is a hard red winter wheat similar to the Karl 92 parent in height, and days to heading. When evaluated in the field at Manhattan, KS for two years, KS99WGRC42 was resistant to Wheat Soilborne Mosaic Virus and stripe rust and susceptible to leaf rust. Request for seed should be sent to the Wheat Genetics Resource Center (Throckmorton Hall, Department of Plant Pathology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS, 66506.)


1. Hessian fly-resistance gene H26 transferred from Triticum tauschii to common wheat. Cox, TS, Hatchett, JH. In: Crop Science, 1994, 34:958-960. [link]

2. Hessian fly-resistance gene transferred from chromosome 4Mv of Aegilops ventricosa to Triticum aestivum. Delibes A, Del Moral J, Martin-Sanchez JA, Mejias A, Gallego M, Casado D, Sin E, Lopez-Brana I. In: Theoretical and Applied Genetics, 1997, 94(6-7):858-864. DOI:10.1007/s001220050487

3. Expression and inheritance of resistance to Hessian fly in synthetic hexaploid wheats derived from Triticum tauschii (Coss.) Schal. Hatchett JH, Martin TJ, Livers RV. In: Crop Science, 1981, 21:731-734. [link]

4. Catalogue of gene symbols for wheat. McIntosh, R.A. In: Miller TE and Koebner RMD (eds), Proc. 7th Int. Wheat Genet. Symp., 1988. Bath Press, Bath, UK, pp 1225-1323.

5. Phenotypic assessment and mapped markers for H31, a new wheat gene conferring resistance to Hessian fly (Diptera: Cecidomyiidae). Williams CE, Collier N, Sardesai CC, Ohm HW, Cambron SE. In: Theoretical and Applied Genetics, 2003, 107:1516-1523. DOI:10.1007/s00122-003-1393-y

6. Virulence analysis of Hessian fly populations from Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Chen MS, Echegaray E, Whitworth RJ, Wang H, Sloderbeck PE, Knutson A, Giles KL, Royer TA. In: Journal of Economic Entomology, 2009, 102:774-780. DOI:10.1603/029.102.0239.

7. Registration of eight Hessian fly resistant common winter wheat germplasm lines (Carol, Erin, Flynn, Iris, Joy, Karen, Lola, and Molly). Patterson FL, Mass III FB, Foster JE, Ratcliffe RH, Cambron S, Safanski G, Taylor PL, Ohm HW. In: Crop Science, 1994, 34(1):315-316.

8. Linkage relationships among genes on wheat chromosome 5A that condition resistance to Hessian fly. Ohm HW, Sharma HC, Patterson FL, Ratcliffe RH, Obanni M. In: Crop Science, 1995, 35(6):1603-1607. [link]

9. Molecular mapping determines that Hessian fly resistance gene H9 is located on chromosome 1A of wheat. Kong L, Ohm HW, Cambron SE, Williams CE. In: Plant Breeding, 2005, 124, 525-531. DOI:10.1111/j.1439-0523.2005.01139.x

10. H9, H10, and H11 compose a cluster of Hessian fly-resistance genes in the distal gene-rich region of wheat chromosome 1AS. Liu XM, Fritz AK, Reese JC, Wilde GE, Gill BS, Chen MS. In: Theoretical and Applied Genetics, 2005, 110:1473-1480. DOI:10.1007/s00122-005-1982-z

11. Hessian fly resistance gene H13 is mapped to a distal cluster of resistance genes in chromosome 6DS of wheat. Liu XM, Gill BS, Chen MS. In: Theoretical and Applied Genetics, 2005, 111: 243-249. DOI:10.1007/s00122-005-2009-5

12. Registration of KS92WGRC17, KS92WGRC18, KS92WGRC19, and KS92WGRC20 winter wheat germplasms resistant to Hessian fly. Sebesta EE, Hatchett JH, Friebe B, Gill BS, Cox TS, Sears RG. In: Crop Science, 1997, 37(2):635.

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