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September 19th, 2019 / BBC, UK

Wild relatives of food crops, such as wheat, host an abundant array of genetic material to help the plants cope with a changing climate.

In a study over 28 years showed that populations of wild wheat accumulated “beneficial mutations” such as a tolerance to temperature increases.

Researchers say the results improve our understanding of how plants are responding to a warming world.

The findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“We get some very exciting results,” explained lead author Yong-Bi Fu, a research scientist from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

“One of which is that we can demonstrate that over 28 years, and 28 generations, you can see the wild relative of the plant accumulate more genetic mutations, and we found that most of the population is still adaptable.” 

Although the team did find that there were individual specimens in the study that did not survive the conditions associated with a warmer environment, there were others that were able to adapt in such a way that meant they could cope with a warmer world.

The study involved 10 populations of emmer wheat in Israel. Dr Fu say that the temperature increase over the three decades amounted to up to two degrees Celsius, which is similar to the increase that the Paris Climate Agreement hopes to limit global average temperatures from rising above pre-industrial levels. Read more …