Wheat Research Team Grants

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VERACRUZ, MEXICO — Five international wheat research teams have received grants for their proposals to build climate resilience in wheat through the discovery and development of new breeding technologies, breeding tools and traits.

The proposals were submitted in response to a call launched in 2021 by the Heat and Drought Wheat Improvement Consortium (HeDWIC), led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and global partners.

Wheat is one of the world’s most important staple crops, accounting for around 20% of all human calories and protein and is increasingly at risk from the impacts of climate change. Experts around the world are working on ways to strengthen the crop in the face of increasing heat and drought conditions.

Owen Atkin, from the Australian National University’s Center for Entrepreneurial Agri-Technology, is leading the award-winning project “Discovering Thermally Stable Wheat Through Exploration of Leaf Respiration in Combination with Photosystem II Capacity and Heat Tolerance heat”.

“The ratio of dark respiration to light and CO2 saturated photosynthesis is a clear indicator of a plant’s respiratory efficiency,” Atkin said. “We will measure and couple this indicator of respiratory efficiency to the foliar hyperspectral signature of wheat grown in the field exposed to heat and drought. The result could be a powerful tool capable of selecting more productive wheat lines when faced with drought and heat waves. »

Hannah Schneider of Wageningen University and Research is leading the award-winning project examining the use of a new root trait called multiseriate cortical sclerenchyma to increase drought tolerance in wheat.

“Drought is the major limitation of global agricultural production around the world,” Schneider said. “The presence of small outer cortical cells with thick, lignified cell walls (MCS: multiseriate cortical sclerenchyma) is a novel root trait that has utility in drought environments. The overall goal of this project is to assess and develop this trait as a tool to improve drought resistance in wheat and other crops.

John Foulkes of the University of Nottingham is leading an award-winning project titled “Identifying Spike Hormonal Traits and Molecular Markers for Improved Heat and Drought Tolerance in Wheat”.

“The project aims to enhance the climatic resilience of set grain in wheat by identifying peak hormonal signals that buffer set grain against extreme weather conditions, with a focus on cytokinin, ABA and ethylene,” Foulkes said. “This will provide new phenotyping screens and genetic material to breeders and lay the foundation for genetic analysis and marker development.”

Erik Murchie of the University of Nottingham is leading an award-winning project to explore new ways of determining genetic variation in heat-induced growth inhibition in wheat.

“High temperature events under climate change are increasingly limiting crop growth and yield by disrupting metabolic and developmental processes,” Murchie said. “This project will develop rapid methods for screening growth and physiological processes during heat waves, generating new genetic resources for wheat.”

Eric Ober of the National Institute of Agricultural Botany in the UK leads the award-winning project ‘Targeted selection of thermotolerant isoforms of starch synthase’.

“Wheat remains a predominant source of calories and is fundamental to regional food security around the world,” Ober said. “There is an urgent need for breeders to be equipped to produce new varieties with increased tolerance to heat and drought, two stresses that commonly occur together, limiting grain production. Grain formation and filling depends on starch synthesis, but a key enzyme in the pathway, starch synthase, is particularly sensitive to temperatures above 25°C. However, there are forms of this enzyme that exhibit greater thermotolerance than that found in most current wheat varieties. This project aims to develop a simple assay to screen various germplasms for sources of more heat-tolerant forms of starch synthase that could be reproduced in new wheat varieties in the future.

The grants were made possible through co-funding from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) and in-kind contributions from the winners as part of a project that brings together the latest research from scientists around the world. to provide climate-resistant wheat to farmers. as quickly as possible.

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