Update about the breakthrough in wheat breeding

After writing here about a new wheat cross I got in touch with Dr Phil Howell who led that research. With his permission, I show you Phil’s comments.

‘We are making our own SHWs [Synthetic Hexaploid Wheats] at NIAB [National Institute of Agricultural Botany] and have begun to cross them with local varieties to explore their usefulness in UK conditions. But, we have already done the same with the SHWs from CIMMYT [International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center] and in the first field tests, the best of these “pre-breeding” lines yielded really well, the best gave much higher yields than the UK variety we’d made the cross with.

‘We’re not the only ones doing this of course. CIMMYT began making SHWs in the late 1980s to use in their breeding programmes for the developing world. They’ve been successful too, and estimate that around a quarter of the varieties they’ve released since the millennium have SHW somewhere in their pedigree. The Chinese picked up on this and crossed CIMMYT SHWs with their local varieties, releasing a new line called ‘Chuanmai 42” in 2003 which yielded far more than established varieties. I’ve been told that a quarter of the Chinese wheat acreage – some 5 million hectares, so almost as much as the combined wheat acreage of the UK and France – is now planted with SHW-derived varieties.’

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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3 Responses to Update about the breakthrough in wheat breeding

  1. Pingback: Breakthough in wheat breeding | Science on the Land

  2. EqFe says:

    I continue to be concerned that ever breakthough in improved varieties may lead to decreased genetic diversity. 25% of China’s wheat crop planted to a single variety is not ideal.

    • argylesock says:

      You’ve misunderstood this. It’s about increasing wheat diversity, not reducing it.

      Phil’s remarks include ‘a quarter of the varieties they’ve released since the millennium have SHW somewhere in their pedigree,’ and ‘a quarter of the Chinese wheat acreage… is now planted with SHW-derived varieties.’ Both of those statements are about varieties – the plural – not about a single variety.

      In fact the SHWs, which have been made at NIAB and elsewhere, are important because they bring in new wheat diversity.

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