G20 Challenge funds wheat yield research

6 November 2015

Two projects involving researchers from ANU have received a slice of US $20 million from the G20 to strengthen global food security by making more energy efficient wheat.

The funding is provided by the agriculture ministers of the G20 nations through the International Wheat Yield Partnership (IWYP) to co-ordinate worldwide wheat research efforts to raise the genetic yield potential of wheat.   

"Improving photosynthesis is the next frontier in wheat breeding," said one of the funding recipients, ANU Professor Robert Furbank from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis.

Wheat is one of the most important staples in the world and its demand is expected to increase by 60 per cent in the next 20 years. Global crop yields must double by 2050 to meet future food security needs, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.

The projects were two of eight successful projects to be funded by the IWYP grants.

The first project will exploit the energy systems of wheat plants to dramatically improve their yield through a novel approach that combines cutting edge molecular techniques with traditional breeding.

This three-year project involves researchers from the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology, the ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) in Mexico. As the Australian partner of IWYP, the Grains Research and Development Corporation will be the primary funder of this project.

"The approach will identify new opportunities for wheat improvement through selective breeding for energy use efficiency," said ANU Professor Barry Pogson from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology.

The second project will search for the genes which control how efficiently wheat uses photosynthesis to turn atmospheric carbon dioxide into grain. By matching regions of the wheat genome to photosynthetic performance, the researchers hope to enable a revolution in breeding high-yielding wheat.

The team for this project includes researchers from the University of Liverpool in the UK, Lancaster University in UK, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico, and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis.

"We hope to give wheat breeders a new toolbox of genes for yield improvement by combining new genomics tools developed in Europe, novel phenotyping technologies developed in Australia and diverse wheat varieties available from CIMMYT," Professor Furbank said.

The two projects will start in 2016.