New IWYP brief highlights innovations for high-yielding wheat lines
Our partners at the International Wheat Yield Partnership are examining hundreds of wheat wild relatives, wheat-wild crosses and landraces in a search for gene variants associated with a high rate of photosynthesis – a trait related to higher crop yield.
This news is highlighted in the first IWYP Science Brief — a series launched to share ongoing research and exciting outputs that aim to transform scientific innovations into new higher yielding wheat lines.
A research collaboration led by Erik Murchie at the
University of Nottingham, UK has found a number of wheat wild relative species
with photosynthetic rates up to a third greater than any of the modern wheat
Twenty-one wheat lines with chromosomal segments associated with this trait have been evaluated in the field at the IWYP Hub in Obregon, Mexico. The four best segments are being introduced into IWYP lines to evaluate their effect in the elite spring wheat lines that are used in breeding programs around the world.
In crop research fields, it is now a common sight to see drones or other high-tech sensing tools collecting high-resolution data on a wide range of traits – from simple measurement of canopy temperature to complex 3D reconstruction of photosynthetic canopies.
This technological approach to collecting precise plant trait information, known as phenotyping, is becoming ubiquitous on research fields, but according to experts at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and other research institutions, breeders can profit much more from these tools, when used judiciously.
In a new article in the journal Plant Science, CIMMYT Wheat Physiologist Matthew Reynolds and colleagues explain the different ways that phenotyping can assist breeding — from simple to use, “handy” approaches for large scale screening, to detailed physiological characterization of key traits to identify new parental sources — and why this methodology is crucial for crop improvement. The authors make the case for breeders to invest in phenotyping, particularly in light of the imperative to breed crops for warmer and harsher climates.
This work was supported by the International Wheat Yield Partnership (IWYP); the Sustainable Modernization of Traditional Agriculture (MasAgro) Project by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (SADER) of the Government of Mexico; and the CGIAR Research Program on Wheat (WHEAT).
collaboration and a visionary approach by both researchers and funders are
urgently needed to translate primary plant research results into real impact in
the fields, argue crop improvement experts.
For a number of reasons – including limited
interdisciplinary collaboration and a dearth of funding, revolutionary new
plant research findings are not being used to improve crops.
research” — efforts to convert basic research knowledge about plants into practical
applications in crop improvement – represents a necessary link between the
world of fundamental discovery and farmers’ fields. This kind of research is often seen as more
complicated and time consuming than basic research and less sexy than working
at the “cutting edge” where research is typically divorced from agricultural
realities in order to achieve faster and cleaner results; however, modern tools
— such as genomics, marker-assisted breeding, high throughput phenotyping of
crop traits using drones, and speed breeding techniques – are making it both
faster and cost-effective.
In a new article in Crop Breeding, Genetics, and Genomics, wheat physiologist Matthew Reynolds of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and co-authors make the case for increasing not only funding for translational research, but the underlying prerequisites: international and interdisciplinary collaboration towards focused objectives and a visionary approach by funding organizations.
“It’s ironic,” said Reynolds. “Many breeding programs have invested in the exact technologies — such as phenomics, genomics and informatics — that can be powerful tools for translational research to make real improvements in yield and adaptation to climate, disease and pest stresses. But funding to integrate these tools in front-line breeding is quite scarce, so they aren’t reaching their potential value for crop improvement.”
Many research findings are tested for their implications for wheat improvement by the International Wheat Yield Partnership (IWYP) at the IWYP Hub — a centralized technical platform for evaluating innovations and building them into elite wheat varieties, co-managed by CIMMYT at its experimental station in Obregon, Mexico.
IWYP has its roots with the CGIAR Research Program on Wheat (WHEAT), which in 2010 formalized the need to boost both wheat yield potential as well as its adaptation to heat and drought stress. The network specializes in translational research, harnessing scientific findings from around the world to boost genetic gains in wheat, and capitalizing on the research and pre-breeding outputs of WHEAT and the testing networks of the International Wheat Improvement Network (IWIN). These efforts also led to the establishment of the Heat and Drought Wheat Improvement Consortium (HeDWIC).
“We’ve made extraordinary advances in understanding the genetic basis of important traits,“ said IWYP’s Richard Flavell, a co-author of the article. “But if they aren’t translated into crop production, their societal value is lost.”
The authors — all of
whom have proven track records in both science and practical crop improvement
— offer examples where exactly this combination of factors led to the
impactful application of innovative research findings.
Improving the Vitamin A content of maize: A variety of maize with high Vitamin A content has the potential to reduce a deficiency that can cause blindness and a compromised immune system. This development happened as a result of many translational research efforts, including marker-assisted selection for a favorable allele, using DNA extracted from seed of numerous segregating breeding crosses prior to planting, and even findings from gerbil, piglet and chicken models — as well as long-term, community-based, placebo-controlled trials with children — that helped establish that Vitamin A maize is bioavailable and bioefficacious.
Flood-tolerant rice: Weather variability due to climate change effects is predicted to include both droughts and floods. Developing rice varieties that can withstand submergence in water due to flooding is an important outcome of translational research which has resulted in important gains for rice agriculture. In this case, the genetic trait for flood tolerance was recognized, but it took a long time to incorporate the trait into elite germplasm breeding programs. In fact, the development of flooding tolerant rice based on a specific SUB 1A allele took over 50 years at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines (1960–2010), together with expert molecular analyses by others. The translation program to achieve efficient incorporation into elite high yielding cultivars also required detailed research using molecular marker technologies that were not available at the time when trait introgression started.
include new approaches for improving the yield potential of spring wheat and the
discovery of traits that increase the climate resilience of maize and sorghum.
One way researchers apply academic research to field impact
is through phenotyping. Involving the use of cutting edge technologies and
tools to measure detailed and hard to recognize plant traits, this area of
research has undergone a revolution in the past decade, thanks to more
affordable digital measuring tools such as cameras and
sensors and more powerful and accessible computing power and accessibility.
Scientists are now able to identify at a detailed scale
plant traits that show how efficiently a plant is using the sun’s radiation for
growth, how deep its roots are growing to collect water, and more — helping
breeders select the best lines to cross and develop.
Phenotyping is key to understanding the physiological and
genetic bases of plant growth and adaptation and has wide application in crop
improvement programs. Recording trait
data through sophisticated non-invasive imaging, spectroscopy, image analysis,
robotics, high-performance computing facilities and phenomics databases allows
scientists to collect information about traits such as plant development,
architecture, plant photosynthesis, growth or biomass productivity from
hundreds to thousands of plants in a single day. This revolution was the
subject of discussion at a 2016 gathering of more than 200
participants at the International Plant Phenotyping Symposium hosted
by CIMMYT in Mexico and documented in a
special issue of Plant Science.
There is currently an explosion in plant science. Scientists
have uncovered the genetic basis of many traits, identified genetic markers to
track them and developed ways to measure them in breeding programs. But most of
these new findings and ideas have yet to be tested and used in breeding
programs – wasting their potentially enormous societal value.
Establishing systems for generating and testing new
hypotheses in agriculturally relevant systems must become a priority, Reynolds
states in the article. However, for success, this will require
interdisciplinary, and often international, collaboration to enable established
breeding programs to retool. Most
importantly, scientists and funding organizations alike must factor in the long-term
benefits as well as the risks of not taking timely action. Translating a
research finding into an improved crop that can save lives takes time and
commitment. With these two prerequisites, basic plant research can and should positively
impact food security.
Authors would like to acknowledge the following funding organizations for their commitment to translational research.
The International Wheat Yield Partnership (IWYP) is supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) in the UK; the U. S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in the USA; and the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA) in Switzerland.
The Heat and
Drought Wheat Improvement Consortium (HeDWIC) is supported by the Sustainable
Modernization of Traditional Agriculture (MasAgro) Project by the Ministry of
Agriculture and Rural Development (SADER) of the Government of Mexico; previous
projects that underpinned HeDWIC were supported by Australia’s Grains Research
and Development Corporation (GRDC).
Queensland Government’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in
collaboration with The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) have
provided long-term investment for the public sector sorghum pre-breeding
program in Australia, including research on the stay-green trait. More
recently, this translational research has been led by the Queensland Alliance
for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) within The University of
validation work and ASI translation and extension components with support from
the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Bill and Melinda Gates
Financial support for the maize proVA work was partially provided by HarvestPlus (www.HarvestPlus.org), a global alliance of agriculture and nutrition research institutions working to increase the micronutrient density of staple food crops through biofortification. The CGIAR Research Program MAIZE (CRP-MAIZE) also supported this research.
The CGIAR Research Program on Wheat (WHEAT) is led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), with the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) as a primary research partner. Funding comes from CGIAR, national governments, foundations, development banks and other agencies, including the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
More than 800 global experts will gather in Saskatoon to strategize on ways to meet projected nutritional needs of 60% more people by 2050.
SASKATOON, Canada (CIMMYT) — Amid global efforts to intensify the nutritional value and scale of wheat production, scientists from all major wheat growing regions in the world will gather from July 21 to 26, 2019 at the International Wheat Congress in Saskatoon, the city at the heart of Canada’s western wheat growing province, Saskatchewan. The CGIAR Research Program on Wheat (WHEAT), led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), is a founding member of the G20 Wheat Initiative, a co-host of the conference.
Wheat provides 20% of all human calories consumed worldwide. In the Global South, it is the main source of protein and a critical source of life for 2.5 billion people who live on less than $2 (C$2.60) a day.
In spite of its key role in combating hunger and malnutrition, the major staple grain faces threats from climate change, variable weather, disease, predators and many other challenges. Wheat’s vital contribution to the human diet and farmer livelihoods makes it central to conversations about the rural environment, agricultural biodiversity and global food security.
More than 800 delegates, including researchers from the CGIAR Research Program on Wheat, CIMMYT, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), the International Wheat Yield Partnership (IWYP), Cornell University’s Delivering Genetic Gain in Wheat project (DGGW), the University of Saskatchewan and many other organizations worldwide will discuss the latest research on wheat germplasm.
“We must solve a complex puzzle,” said Martin Kropff, CIMMYT’s director general. “Wheat must feed more people while growing sustainably on less land. Wheat demand is predicted to increase 60% in the next three decades, while climate change is putting an unprecedented strain on production.”
“The scientific community is tackling this challenge head-on, through global collaboration, germplasm exchange and innovative approaches. Researchers are looking at wheat’s temperature response mechanisms and using remote sensing, genomics, bio-informatics and other technologies to make wheat more tolerant to heat and drought,” Kropff said.
The congress is the first major gathering of the wheat community since the 2015 International Wheat Conference in Sydney, Australia.
CGIAR and CIMMYT scientists will share the latest findings on:
State-of-the-art approaches for measuring traits to speed breeding for heat and drought tolerance
Breeding durum (pasta) wheat for traits for use in bread products
New sources of diversity — including ancient wheat relatives — to create aphid-resistant wheat and other improved varieties
DNA fingerprinting to help national partners identify gaps in improved variety adoption
For more details on schedule and scientists’ presentations, click here.
Research shows that more than 60% of wheat varietal releases since 1994 were CGIAR-related.
Low- and middle-income countries are the primary focus and biggest beneficiaries of CGIAR wheat research, but high-income countries reap substantial rewards as well. In Canada, three-quarters of the wheat area is sown to CGIAR-related cultivars and in the United States almost 60% of the wheat area was sown to CGIAR-related varieties, according to the research.
WHEN: July 21-26, 2019
The opening ceremony and lectures will take place on Monday, July 22, 2019 from 08:50 to 10:50 a.m.
The Premier of Saskatchewan, Scott Moe, will give welcoming remarks at the opening ceremony. Other attending dignitaries include the Mayor of Saskatoon, Charlie Clark, and the President of the University of Saskatchewan, Peter Stoicheff.
Contacts: For further information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Marcia MacNeil: email@example.com
Julie Mollins: firstname.lastname@example.org
About CGIAR: CGIAR is a global research partnership for a food secure future dedicated to reducing poverty, enhancing food and nutrition security, and improving natural resources.
About the CGIAR Research Program on Wheat: Joining advanced science with field-level research and extension in lower- and middle-income countries, the Agri-Food Systems CGIAR Research Program on Wheat (WHEAT) works with public and private organizations worldwide to raise the productivity, production and affordable availability of wheat for 2.5 billion resource-poor producers and consumers who depend on the crop as a staple food. WHEAT is led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), with the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) as a primary research partner. Funding for WHEAT comes from CGIAR and national governments, foundations, development banks and other public and private agencies, in particular the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). www.wheat.org
About CIMMYT: The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) is the global leader in publicly funded maize and wheat research and related farming systems. Headquartered near Mexico City, CIMMYT works with hundreds of partners throughout the developing world to sustainably increase the productivity of maize and wheat cropping systems, thus improving global food security and reducing poverty. CIMMYT is a member of CGIAR and leads the CGIAR Research Programs on Maize and Wheat, and the Excellence in Breeding Platform. The center receives support from national governments, foundations, development banks and other public and private agencies.
The International Wheat Yield Partnership (IWYP), a partnership of public sector agencies and private industry focusing on innovations in wheat breeding for significant yield increases, recently released its 2017-2018 Annual Report. Many new research discoveries have been recorded over the last year, from germplasm with traits to improve genetic yield potential to molecular genetic markers associated with a target trait and new methods and technology to improve screening of individual wheat lines.
Accomplishments include making wheat lines with higher biomass and grain yields available for release in national programs, validating the hypothesis that combining parents with high biomass and good harvest index can boost genetic gains. IWYP researchers have also made publicly available new wheat lines with increased grain size and spike morphology, which several breeding companies in the UK, Europe and Brazil have requested. Yield trials have also led to the discovery of several physiological trait lines that outperform the best local and International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) check varieties in over 27 environments.
The Partnership, which includes 30 projects in more than 50 laboratories in 12 countries, is now in its third year. Outputs from its earliest projects are currently being validated and integrated in a prebreeding pipeline at the IWYP Hub at CIMMYT for development into pre-products. This ensures the best “toolbox” of new traits, genetics, and technology to reach its critical challenge of raising genetic wheat yield potential 50 percent by 2035.
Wheat breeding lines from the IWYP Hub at CIMMYT are out-yielding local checks in tests, validating the strategy of combining high biomass individuals with those that feature better grain filling attributes. The lines are being sent to public and private breeding programs worldwide. Read more about this and other exciting IWYP activities and outputs:
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (October 30, 2015)- The International Wheat Yield Partnership (IWYP) will recommend around US $20 million in grants awards from its funders for a selection of 8 research projects by leading institutes to increase wheat’s photosynthetic and energy-use efficiency and harness the genetics behind key components of yield.
Resulting from a January 2015 call for competitive research proposals, the projects fit the IWYP goal of raising the genetic yield potential of wheat by up to 50% in the coming 20 years.
To read more about the projects, IWYP, and the Initiative’s funders, click here.