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August 30th, 2019 / Genetic Literacy Project, US

B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru  writes:

To meet a growing global demand for wheat, scientists and policy makers are calling for wider use of new breeding techniques in a quest to increase yields and fight pests, disease and climate change.

While other key commodity crops – including corn, soybeans and cotton – have been tweaked and improved through genetic modification, wheat has largely been left in the hands of conventional breeding techniques. The last major improvement in the wheat sector came during the Green Revolution of the 1970s, according to a March 2019 paper by a group of researchers from China, Ukraine, Australia and Kazakhstan. They wrote:

The Green Revolution of the 1970s achieved enormous yield gains via the introduction of disease resistant semidwarf high yielding wheat varieties developed by Dr. N.E.Borlaug and colleagues. Since that time, however, global wheat production has stagnated, and current trends show that yields will not be sufficient to meet growing market demands.

That needs to change, according to a group of 900 scientists and policy makers from 50 countries gathered in Saskatoon, Canada, in late July to discuss the progress of wheat breeding across the globe. The meeting was organized by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) in Mexico in partnership with the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDO) based in Morocco and the University of Saskatoon. Read more …