Cereals 2015: Five scientific advances to help boost wheat yields

Visitors to the 2015 Cereals event are being offered a glimpse of some of the research that could help winter wheat growers in the UK beat the yield plateau.

Farming company Velcourt are demonstrating the potential of a number of research projects that might help the industry start to see yield increases.

See also: How one farmer is attempting world wheat yield

Wider wheat

Researchers at Norwich-based research institute the John Innes Centre (JIC), led by Christobal Uauy, have identified a gene that produces grains that are 5% wider.

This will translate to a 5% yield boost and a genetic marker will soon be passed to wheat breeders to be incorporated into commercial lines.

Waxless wheat

JIC scientists have also discovered a region on the wheat chromosome that inhibits the production of waxes on the plant’s leaves.

Less leaf wax means less light reflectance and results in increased photosynthesis and subsequent yield.

Introducing this gene to commercial varieties Hereward and Alchemy has increased yields by 5% in trials.

Mutagenesis

Treating Cadenza wheat seed with the chemical ethyl methanesulfonate (EMS) can trigger genetic mutations that produce random phenotypes in the seed’s progeny.

If the traits expressed are desirable, modern genome mapping allows researchers to identify useful mutations and introduce them into commercial varieties. Examples so far include larger ears, disease resistance and grain size.

Root function

Researchers are beginning work on wheat roots to understand their architecture and water uptake efficiency.

This will allow the selection of rooting traits that improve establishment, nutrient and water uptake – which could help growers on drought-prone soils in particular.

Natural elicitors

Working with biostimulant company Verdesian, Velcourt is trialling various products, including nutritional seed treatments, a foliar product that increases the uptake and efficacy of SDHI fungicides, additives that increase nitrogen uptake and a T3 product that improves fusarium control. Sceptical? Velcourt will reveal the results of farm scale trials later this year.


 For more news, photos, video and information at the Cereals event see our Cereals 2015 page

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