A new international partnership aims to increase wheat yields by 50% by 2034.
The new International Wheat Yield Partnership (IWYP) brings together bioscience research groups, companies and donors.
It was launched at the Borlaugh summit on wheat for food security in Mexico on 25 March.
The partnership will address the demand for wheat – one of the world’s most important staple crops – which is growing much faster than production.
The world’s population is estimated to reach 9.6bn by 2050 and wheat production will have a crucial role in food security and the global economy.
The World Bank estimates that global wheat production will have to increase by 60% between 2000 and 2050 to meet rising demand. However, wheat yield increases in developed nations, including the UK, have slowed since 1990.
Politically destabilising wheat price spikes seen in 2007-08 and 2011 are likely to be repeated if wheat production falls short of demand.
The UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is among the initiators of the IWYP scheme.
“We need a collective, global approach to make more wheat available,” said Steve Visscher, chairman of the IWYP board of founding partners and BBSRC chief executive.
“It is the most widely grown staple food crop and new varieties with increased yield will be vital to feed the world’s growing population.”
Over the next five years, the IWYP will drive to secure $100m from private-sector funders and donors worldwide. Significant commitments have already been pledged from Europe, the Americas and Australia.
The IWYP research programme will It stimulate new research, amplify the output from existing programmes, and make scientific discoveries available to farmers in developing and developed nations.