GRDC invests $1.9M to develop climate-resilient wheat

Grain Central, February 18, 2024

Photo: GRDC

THE Grains Research & Development Corporation (GRDC) has partnered with the Australian National University (ANU) and industry partners to invest in research to accelerate the development of climate-resilient wheat varieties.

The three-year $1.9 million investment will focus on the development of heat tolerant wheat genetics, as well as determining what makes a crop able to survive, grow and produce yields under high-temperature conditions.

Director of ANU’s Agrifood Innovation Institute Owen Atkin said rising global temperatures were already having an impact on crop yields in critical food-producing regions in both Australia and overseas.

“In recent years we have seen an increase in heat waves induced by global warming, which have impacted wheat production across Australia and the world,” Professor Atkin said.

“Every one-degree increase in global mean temperature is predicted to result in a six to 10-percent decrease in wheat yields.

“This is extremely concerning given the pressing need to increase Australia’s crop productivity in line with a growing global population.”

GRDC genetic technologies manager Prameela Vanambathina said while breeders were doing a good job of producing wheat germplasm that was more heat tolerant, there were still unanswered questions about leaf carbon exchange that could fast-track outcomes.

“Leaf carbon exchange refers to the combination of two key processes: photosynthesis and respiration,” Ms Vanambathina said.

“We know high temperatures accelerate the development of wheat, inhibit flower development, and reduce the efficiency of photosynthesis, stunting a plant’s growth and reducing yields.

“But we don’t yet understand what processes are responsible for the variation in heat tolerance of Australian germplasm, which limits the breeders’ ability to introduce and develop heat tolerance into modern crops.”

The research being undertaken by the ANU-led team in partnership with University of Sydney, University of New England, University of Western Australia, InterGrain and overseas partners, will aim to understand the genetic basis for heat tolerance in wheat crops, so that ultimately, producers will have access to more heat-resistant varieties.

“This investment in ground-breaking research and development is just one of the ways GRDC is committed to building a more sustainable, productive and profitable Australian grain sector,” Ms Vanambathina said.

Source: GRDC


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