How are scientists making wheat more climate resilient?
Newswise — June 10, 2019 – Wheat is a staple crop to 35% of the world population. It’s a temperate crop, meaning it is sensitive to increasing temperatures. Wheat is particularly sensitive during the growth stages when it produces flowers and seeds (which are also grains). The June 7th Sustainable, Secure Food blog explains how scientists are developing more heat resilient crops.
Blogger Amita Mohan, Washington State University, says that scientists are looking at solutions from several angles:
- Identifying germplasm that is most resilient to climate – Scientists around the world are screening hundreds of wheat lines to identify lines better suited to climate change. They are looking at both the phenotype and the genotypes.
- Breeding more photosynthetically efficient wheat – Plants vary in their photosynthetic efficiency. Even a slight increase in the efficiency (0.5%) would substantially increase the wheat yield around the globe. Some are also looking for ways to increase biomass, spike photosynthesis and grain size.
- Looking to the roots – Roots not only hold plants in place, they are the major way plants get water and nutrients. By developing wheat breeds with longer root systems, may help the crop be more drought (and heat) tolerant.
“Research is an ongoing process,” says Mohan. “The varieties breeder develop in the lab and greenhouse must then be tested in the field. Then, field trials need to go further, to make sure that the wheat grain is acceptable in attributes like flavor, cooking and baking ability, and its ability to be stored. Creating new varieties is a long-term process – one that began many decades ago, and will continue into the future. This will help us to continue to have a nutritious, safe food supply for the world’s growing population.”
This blog is sponsored and written by members of the American Society of Agronomy and Crop Science Society of America. Our members are researchers and trained, certified professionals in the areas of growing our world’s food supply, while protecting our environment. They work at universities, government research facilities, and private businesses across the United States and the world.