Genetically increasing wheat yield potential for food security
The disruptions to global trade markets as a result of the war in Ukraine, among other things, have focused public attention on securing sufficient high-quality food for the world’s population. Researchers from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) are looking for modern methods to increase global harvests and ensure global food security. Wheat plays a special role in this.
In terms of cultivated cropland, wheat is one of the most important grains and plays an important role as a staple food. It is grown in more than a hundred countries. However, the supply of wheat is inadequate and many developing and emerging countries rely heavily on imports. Senthold Asseng, professor of digital agriculture at TUM, has been working with international research teams to study scenarios and models that could lead the way out of the wheat crisis.
Wheat crisis threatens food security and world peace
Fluctuations in prices on world markets and in harvests have a major impact on the nutritional situation for many people worldwide. These supply bottlenecks have negative effects on the quality of life of the population that can undermine social stability.
“The current global wheat crisis shows how important wheat is to the world. In many countries, food security is linked to national security, civil unrest, migration and even war,” said Prof. Asseng, director of the World Agricultural Systems Center–Hans. Eisenmann Forum for Agricultural Sciences at the TUM in Weihenstephan. “Wheat yields are stagnating in many parts of the world. Especially with the rising world population, steady increases in yields will be necessary in the coming decades to secure global food needs,” warns Asseng.
Finding and Using Hidden Breeding Resources
Prof. dr. Asseng is working intensively on possible increases in wheat yield. As a scientist, his work is not limited to theoretical calculations and models. His research also deals directly with nature through field experiments, including work with regional wheat varieties.
“We are approaching the biophysical limits of wheat yields, so we need to understand the functions of crops to further increase yields,” says the scientist. He firmly believes that wheat’s genetic resources are considerable. In his experiments, he has identified the unused genetic resources in this cultivated plant with the potential to increase yields around the world. He speaks of a genetic yield gap of 51%. The aim is to mobilize this breeding gap. This can be done through targeted breeding that utilizes the yield potential of wheat and thus leads to richer harvests.
Genetics is important, but only an interdisciplinary approach will achieve the goal
Prof. dr. Asseng is certain: “Genetics alone cannot solve the global nutritional problems. We can only achieve this with an interdisciplinary approach through the application of genetics in combination with soil and climate science and research on cultivated plants.”
The use of advanced modern breeding tools and the continuous improvement of agricultural crop production through optimized plant and soil management will achieve the urgently needed increases in the global wheat crop. This could then lead to an effective solution for an adequate global food supply in the future.
Breeding with ‘wild relatives’ to produce disease and climate resistant wheat
Nimai Senapati et al, Global wheat production could benefit from closing the genetic yield gap, Nature Food (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s43016-022-00540-9
Matthew Paul Reynolds et al, A wiring diagram to integrate physiological properties of wheat yield potential, Nature Food (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s43016-022-00512-z
Provided by Technical University Munich
Quote: Genetically enhancing wheat yield potential for food security (2022, August 4), retrieved August 4, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-08-genetically-wheat-yield-potential-food.html
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