Although new biotechnology approaches using gene editing are looking promising, traditional breeding methods are still the key ways to develop cultivars with desirable traits. High grain yield is the most important, alongside resistance to key diseases, early flowering and maturity, lodging resistance and abiotic stress tolerance is also important. By understanding the genetics of wheat yield determination, breeders can develop new high-yield breeding programmes.
Researchers have successfully identified the regions of the wheat and barley genomes responsible for grain number, width and length. In addition, they are making progress on identifying the genes involved in the “branching” of ears, ear length and glume length.
How it Works
Preliminary results from breeding programmes targeting yield-specific genes have achieved a 5 % increase in grain width and 7% increase in grain length. Exploiting the genes that control ear length has led to 20% more grain sites per ear. The Branching characteristic could in theory, lead to 50% more grains per ear.
Graphs examining landraces and progenitors of modern wheat for useful traits, courtesy of the John Innes Centre
Farmer / Agronomist Benefits
These physiological changes are all about increasing yield of wheat. If one or more of these characteristics are successfully introduced into future varieties of wheat, grower benefits are evident.
Key Researchers / Stakeholders
John Innes Centre
Plant Breeding and Acclimatization Institute, Poland
Leibnitz Institute of Plant Genetics & Crop Research