A team of international researchers has discovered a way to produce better quality wheat. Scientists from the University of Adelaide and the John Innes Center in the UK have identified a genetic engine that improves yield traits in wheat, which can also lead to an increase in protein content of up to 25%.
“Little is known about the mechanism underlying yield and protein content factors in wheat production,” said Dr Scott Boden of the University of Adelaide, School of Agriculture , food and wine, who led the research.
“Discovering a gene that controls these two factors has the potential to help generate new wheat varieties that produce higher quality grain.
“As wheat accounts for nearly 20% of the protein consumed globally, the impact of this research can significantly benefit society by providing higher protein cereals, which could therefore help produce food more nutritious, such as bread and breakfast cereals.”
The work is the first known example where forward genetic screening of a mutant population has been used to identify a gene that controls reproductive development in wheat and insights from this research have the potential to help improve the nutritional and economic value of wheat.
“The genetic variation we have identified provides a 15-25% increase in protein content in plants grown in the field. These varieties also produce additional spikelets, called paired spikelets,” Dr. Boden said.
“We have not yet detected a yield increase with the additional spikelets, but we hope that a yield increase could come from the elite varieties grown by farmers.
“The increased protein content occurs without the trade-off of reduced yield, so this discovery has even more potential to provide an economic benefit to breeders and growers than simply increased nutritional value by itself. .
“Besides the important outcome of this work for the future of wheat breeding, the research itself is of immense value to the scientific community as it provides an elegant example of the new capabilities available for wheat research. “
The team expects the new wheat varieties to be available to breeders in 2-3 years, which could then translate into benefits for farmers in 7-10 years.
The team’s findings were published in the journal Scientists progress.
This project was funded by the Royal Society (UK), Biological and Biotechnology Sciences Research Council (UK), Australian Research Council (ARC), South Australian Grain Industry Trust (SAGIT) and Waite Research Institute of the University of Adelaide.