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Robust wheat for the future

Scientists are using genetic data to better understand how wheat adapts to environmental stress, in order to breed wheat capable of enduring the climate challenges of the future.

Even tiny fluctuations in the weather can affect crops – bigger ones might ruin them. Droughts, heatwaves and floods often ruin the yield of farms around the world, and since the beginning of agriculture, farmers have adapted to nature. If the climate of the future will be altered dramatically, farmers should be ready to adapt as well. This is why Danish scientists from the universities of Copenhagen and Aarhus are exploring the genetics and physiology of the world´s most widespread crop: wheat.

The project aims to get a better understanding of the inner workings of different types of wheat, when it is exposed to different stressful weather phenomenon and compare it to its quality and yield. Thus, scientists may discover what types of wheat are robust and how come they are so. Knowledge about these mechanisms can then be used by plant breeders to breed robust quality wheat, that will adapt to harsher weather conditions – suited for an unpredictable future.

World trade in wheat is bigger than any other crops combined

“A better understanding of the interactions between cultivation systems and the yield of the crops in different environmental conditions is essential to preserve a sustainable and safe supply of food”, says Carl-Otto Ottosen from the Department of Food Science at Aarhus University, who also participates in the project.

By using phenotyping, which combines genetics and physiology, scientists will analyze northern wheats’ physical attributes and genetic markers and compare them to known heat-resistant wheats that maintains a high rate of photosynthesis under environmental stress. These are found in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This will create a more scientific base for breeding strong wheats than conventional breeding and selection.

The project will run from 2018-2020.
You can read more about Food Nation’s stronghold on sustainability here.

Source: Danish Centre For Food And Agriculture