Western Australian researchers will contribute to a G20 nations plan to strengthen future, global food security by making more energy efficient wheat.
According to The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations global crop yields must double by 2050 to meet future food security needs.
To address this need Agriculture Ministers of the G20 nations have established the International Wheat Yield Partnership (IWYP); a unique, international funding initiative to co-ordinate worldwide wheat research efforts.
Professor Harvey Millar and Dr Nicolas Taylor, University of Western Australia researchers from the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology and the UWA School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, form part of a team of Australian scientists that have been selected to address a key component of a global future food security solution by increasing the energy efficiency of wheat.
Globally, wheat is one of the most important staple crops, providing a fifth of daily calories. This project forms part of IWYP’s plan to raise the genetic yield potential of wheat by up to 50%.
Through a novel approach that combines cutting-edge mass-spectrometry techniques with traditional breeding Professor Millar and Dr Taylor, along with colleagues from the Canberra and Adelaide nodes of the ARC 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, will exploit the energy systems of wheat plants to dramatically improve their yield.
The approach will identify new opportunities for wheat improvement through selective breeding for energy use efficiency.
“Our preliminary data demonstrates that there is untapped genetic variation in the energy use efficiency of wheat,” said Professor Millar.
“This means we can fine-tune and optimise growth, which will have a positive impact on wheat yield.”
The three year project will see wheat improvement through energy use efficiency tackled at the cell, tissue and whole plant level.
One million dollars has been awarded for research activity to be conducted at UWA.
“This project will combine quantitative protein and metabolite measurements with growth studies and the high throughput analysis of photosynthesis and respiration in order to screen elite wheat germplasm” said Dr Taylor.
“Importantly, it also takes real world, field grown samples and analyses them using innovative techniques at the forefront of plant sciences to identify the best traits in different Australian and international wheat varieties”.
More than 85% of the energy captured by plants is used in cell activities, some of which are futile, meaning that only a very small amount of plant energy is realised as yield. Improving the ways in which energy is used and distributed within wheat plants has the potential to significantly increase their growth and crop yield.
The project, which is set to commence in 2016, is one of only eight internationally to be selected for funding through IWYP. It will share in a US$20 million first investment from a consortium of world research funding agencies.
As the Australian partner of IWYP, the Grain Research Development Corporation will be the primary funder of this project.
Harvey Millar (ARC CoE in Plant Energy Biology, The University of Western Australia) +61 8 6488 7245, +61 420 308 534, firstname.lastname@example.org
Nicolas Taylor (ARC CoE in Plant Energy Biology and School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, The University of Western Australia) +61 8 6488 1107, +61 414 703 412, email@example.com