USDA initiates $25mn R&D project in wheat

WASHINGTON DC (Commodity Online ) : The United States Department for Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has decided to significantly contribute to research in wheat.

The name of the project is Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) and worth $25mn with a project span of five years. 56 scientists from 28 institutions will take part in the project guided by Jorge Dubcovsky of the University of California and Gary Muehlbauer of the University of Minnesota.

The project envisages developing climate-change resisting wheat varieties and seeks to yield 20% high on wheat output from the current levels, by 2018. Also, AFRI has in its scope to save 10% on water and nitrogen use in wheat and barley production—a long-term goal.

The project also addresses fungal diseases in wheat crops and development of low-temperature tolerant varieties.

The project would accelerate breeding cycles by using various tools and improve publicly available germplasm, bring in standardization in methods in field evaluation and making available various genetic and field measurements to public so as to spread their use in breeding programs.

Also, the project will strive to improve characterization of varieties in the National Small Grains Collection (NSGC) and commercially available barley and wheat. This is expected to increase the pace of introduction of new non-biotech genes into cereal breeding programs. (Currently, the NSGC database of wheat and barley varieties has been underutilized by plant breeders due to lack of funds and adequate genomic information.)

As a part of the project, a new generation of plant breeders would be trained in the most advanced breeding technologies.

Humans currently get 20% of calories from wheat and project funding in this wheat research has been lacking.

However, a change is in the offing with private players too concentrating in this front.

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