The ability to increase wheat yield without reducing protein content and quality is paramount to increasing economic returns for wheat growers. Dr. Norman Borlaugh and the “Green Revolution” of the 1950’s and 1960’s focused largely on identifying the genes that control plant height and tillering (the production of more than one stem per seed). Modern semi-dwarf varieties have approximately 10-14% higher yields compared to the standard height varieties that preceded the Green Revolution because the plants focus more energy on seed production than stem growth. In addition, improvements in tillering have helped optimize the balance between the number of stems and the amount and quality of seed produced. Also, the ability to tailor plant height and tillering has direct implications for forage wheat varieties and dual-purpose winter wheats that are grazed by livestock in the fall and grown out for seed harvest the subsequent year.

Technology Overview:

Montana State University (MSU) has identified a suite of Reduced Height (Rht) and Teosinte Branched 1 (TB1) gene mutations that can be applied individually or stacked to create optimal height and tillering balances without sacrificing yield and quality. MSU’s novel Rht and TB1 alleles have applications in hexaploid wheat for grain producing, forage, and dual-purpose winter forage/grain varieties. For example, the Rht alleles can increase hexaploid wheat tillering without dragging down protein for grain producing varieties. However, there is great potential to improve forage and dual-purpose varieties. Applications of MSU’s TB1 mutants in durum have generated increased tillering with up to 17% increased grain yield with no change in seed size or protein content:

Poster: Improving Durum Yield by Optimizing Tillers

Similar increases are anticipated in hexaploid wheat. The result would be higher forage yields for forage varieties, and more grazeable biomass without a reduction in seed protein levels for dual-purpose winter wheats. For grain producing varieties, a combination of one MSU TB1 knockout and one MSU Rht allele bred into a full height or semi-dwarf wheat is anticipated to produce optimal results.

Because Rht and TB1 affect different mechanisms within plants, the alleles of each can be employed in various combinations to fine tune plant height and tillering for the purposes of maximizing economic return. Most current options involve tradeoffs between yield and seed protein. MSU’s innovations have demonstrated the ability to increase yield without sacrificing protein quality. In fact, in many instances, protein levels are not only maintained but actually increased.


  • Increased grain and/or forage yield while maintaining or even increasing seed protein
  • Not genetically modified (Non-GMO) solutions to optimize variety performance
  • Rht and TB1 discoveries can be stacked to fine tune varieties
  • Ability to produce intermediate height durum varieties that are optimal for prime growing regions in Montana, North Dakota, and Canada
  • Potential to improve forage yields 18% without sacrificing seed yield or quality in dual-purpose varieties


  • Plant breeding
  • Grain production
  • Forage production
  • Dual-purpose wheat production


  • Available for license
  • Potential to collaborate in ongoing research
  • Potential to introduce MSU’s Rht and TB1 innovations into partner’s proprietary recurrent parent lines


Daniel Juliano
(406) 994-7483