Crop Biotech Update

Study by International Experts Shows Global Wheat Production Can Be Doubled

July 13, 2022

A first-of-its-kind analysis by a team of international experts led by Rothamsted Research in the United Kingdom reveals that the untapped genetic potential of wheat shows global yields are only half of what they could be. The team says this ‘genetic yield gap' could be closed by developing wheat varieties tailored to each region by using genetic variation available in wheat gene banks with modern techniques such as speed breeding and gene editing.

This is the first type of global analysis that looked at a total of 53 wheat-growing regions across 33 countries covering all global wheat-growing environments. Using a state-of-the-art wheat model called Sirius, the team first calculated the potential yield from 28 commonly used wheat varieties grown at these sites, assuming the best possible cultivation conditions for each one. They then designed 'idealized' local varieties within the model which optimized several plant traits for yield and whose underlying genetics will allow them to be improved by plant breeders.

The simulations were based on extensive data on the traits including tolerance and response to drought and heat stresses, the size and orientation of the light-capturing upper leaves, and the timing of key life cycle events. The results showed that when these key traits are optimized, genetic yield gaps could be anywhere from 30-70% across different countries, with a global average genetic yield gap of 51%. The team concludes that global wheat production could be doubled by closing the existing genetic yield gap toward achieving global food security in a sustainable way.

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

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