Theoretical and Applied Genetics

, Volume 131, Issue 4, pp 973–984 | Cite as

Can spelt wheat be used as heterotic group for hybrid wheat breeding?

  • Wessam Akel
  • Patrick Thorwarth
  • Vilson Mirdita
  • Elmar A. Weissman
  • Guozheng Liu
  • Tobias Würschum
  • C. Friedrich H. Longin
Original Article


Key message

Spelt wheat is a distinct genetic group to elite bread wheat, but heterosis for yield and protein quality is too low for spelt to be recommended as heterotic group for hybrid breeding in wheat.


The feasibility to switch from line to hybrid breeding is currently a hot topic in the wheat community. One limitation seems to be the lack of divergent heterotic groups within wheat adapted to a certain region. Spelt wheat is a hexaploid wheat that can easily be crossed with bread wheat and that forms a divergent genetic group when compared to elite bread wheat. The aim of this study was to investigate the potential of Central European spelt as a heterotic group for Central European bread wheat. We performed two large experimental field studies comprising in total 43 spelt lines, 14 wheat lines, and 273 wheat–spelt hybrids, and determined yield, heading time, plant height, resistance against yellow rust, leaf rust, and powdery mildew, as well as protein content and sedimentation volume. Heterosis of yield was found to be lower than that of hybrids made between elite wheat lines. Moreover, heterosis of the quality trait sedimentation volume was negative. Consequently, spelt wheat does not appear suited to be used as heterotic group in hybrid wheat breeding. Nevertheless, high combining abilities of a few spelt lines with elite bread wheat lines make them interesting resources for pre-breeding in bread wheat. Thereby, the low correlation between line per se performance and combining ability of these spelt lines shows the potential to unravel the breeding value of genetic resources by crossing them to an elite tester.



W. Akel was financially supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG LO 1816/4-1).

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical standard

The authors declare that the experiments comply with the current laws of Germany.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PNG 450 kb)
122_2018_3052_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (9 mb)
Supplementary material 2 (XLSX 9178 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wessam Akel
    • 1
  • Patrick Thorwarth
    • 1
  • Vilson Mirdita
    • 2
  • Elmar A. Weissman
    • 2
  • Guozheng Liu
    • 2
  • Tobias Würschum
    • 1
  • C. Friedrich H. Longin
    • 1
  1. 1.State Plant Breeding InstituteUniversity of HohenheimStuttgartGermany
  2. 2.Bayer Aktiengesellschaft, European Wheat Breeding CenterGaterslebenGermany

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