How a ‘Holy Grail’ Wheat Gene Discovery Could Keep Feeding a Warming Planet


“Wheat now provides 20% of the calories consumed by humans every day,” writes the Guardian. Unfortunately, “Thanks to human-induced global heating, our planet faces a future of increasingly severe heat waves, droughts and wildfires that could devastate harvests in future, triggering widespread famine in their wake.

“But the crisis could be averted thanks to remarkable research now being undertaken by researchers at the John Innes Centre in Norwich.”

They are working on a project to make wheat more resistant to heat and drought. Such efforts have proved to be extremely tricky but are set to be the subject of a new set of trials in a few weeks as part of a project in which varieties of wheat — created, in part, by gene-editing technology — will be planted in field trials in Spain. The ability of these varieties to withstand the heat of Iberia will determine how well crop scientists will be able to protect future arable farms from the worst vicissitudes of climate change, and so bolster food production for the Earth’s billions, says the John Innes Centre team….

“A key tool in this work was gene editing, which allowed us to make precise changes in wheat DNA. Without it, we would still be struggling with this. It has made all the difference.”
This was an especially difficult struggle because wheat genetics includes multiple ancestral genomes, the article points.

Thanks to long-time Slashdot reader schwit1 for submitting the story.

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