Biotech Updates

Research Shows Wheat Yields Could Increase by 20% with New Chemical Technology

December 21, 2016

Scientists at Rothamsted Research and Oxford University have created a synthetic molecule that when applied to crops, increases the size and starch content of wheat grains by up to 20 percent. The study reports the method based on using synthetic ‘precursors' of the sugar trehalose 6-phosphate (T6P). This is a first-of-its-kind strategy that used chemistry to modify how sugars are used by plants.

Rothamsted Research identified that T6P is crucial in controlling how wheat uses sucrose, the main fuel generated by photosynthesis, and key to the development of wheat grains. When more T6P is available to wheat grains as they grow, the greater the yield. Oxford University developed a modified version of T6P that could be taken up by the plant and then released within the plant in sunlight. This T6P ‘precursor' was added to a solution and then sprayed onto the plants, causing a ‘pulse' of T6P, resulting in more sucrose being drawn into the grain to make starch. When tested in the lab, this approach resulted in an increase in wheat grain size and yield of up to 20 percent.

The study also showed that the precursor molecule also enhances plant's ability to recover from drought, which could ultimately help farmers to overcome difficult seasons in the future.

For more details, read the news release at Rothamsted Research.