A team of international researchers has discovered a way to produce higher quality wheat. Researchers from the University of Adelaide and the John Ines Center in the UK have identified a genetic factor that improves wheat yields, which could also lead to an increase in protein content of up to 25 per cent.
“Little is known about the mechanisms of protein yield and protein content in wheat production,” said Dr. Scott Boden of the University of Adelaide of the School of Agriculture, Nutrition and Wine, who led the study.
“Identifying the gene that controls these two factors can help create new varieties of wheat that produce better quality grains.
“With wheat accounting for nearly 20 percent of the world’s protein, the impact of this study could greatly benefit society by providing higher-protein grains, which could help produce more nutritious foods such as bread and breakfast cereals.”
The work is the first known example where a genetics test of a mutant population has been used to identify a gene that controls reproductive development in wheat, and the insights from this study could help improve the nutritional and economic value of wheat.
“Our genetic variation provides a 15-25 percent increase in protein content for plants grown in the field. These varieties also provide additional spikelets known as paired spikelets,” said Dr. Boden.
“We have not yet noticed an increase in yields with additional spikelets, but hopefully the increase in yields can occur in elite varieties grown by farmers.
“Increasing protein content occurs without compromising yield reductions, so this discovery has even greater potential to provide economic benefits to breeders and growers than simply increasing nutritional value per se.
“Apart from the important result of this work for the future of wheat breeding, the research itself is of great value to the scientific community as it provides an elegant example of the new opportunities available for wheat research.”
The team expects that new varieties of wheat will be available to breeders in 2-3 years, which may benefit farmers in 7-10 years.
The team’s results were published in the journal Advances in science.
This project was funded by the Royal Society (UK), the Research Council for Biological and Biotechnology (UK), the Australian Research Council (ARC), the South Australian Grain Industry Trust (SAGIT) and the Waite Research Institute of the University of Adele.
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