Wheat for a warmer climate with less water


Photo credit: CIMMYT


Scientists aim to adapt wheat to a warmer climate with less water

By Julie Mollins

EL BATAN, Mexico (CIMMYT) – Scientists battling to increase wheat production by more than 60 percent over the next 35 years to meet projected demand are optimistic that they have begun to unravel the genetic mysteries that will lead to a more productive plant.

A recent study conducted at 26 international sites with a new generation of improved wheat breeding lines crossed and selected for superior physiological traits, resulted in yields that were on average 10 percent higher than other wheat varieties.

In the study, scientists identified many useful traits in the wheat plant suited to heat and drought adaptation, including: cooler canopy temperature indicating the ability of the plant to access subsoil water under drought and root proliferation under hot irrigated conditions.

They also discovered the plants have the ability to store sugars in the stem when conditions are good and the capacity to remobilize them to the grain when needed for seed filling if conditions do not permit enough photosynthesis. Leaf wax also plays a role by reflecting excess radiation and reducing evaporation from the leaf surface, lowering the risk of photo-inhibition and dehydration.

Additionally, scientists discovered that total aboveground biomass, a trait, which indicates overall plant fitness and with the right crossing strategy can be converted to produce higher grain yield.

Read the full article: CIMMYT

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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