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Checkbiotech: Big ears for British wheat
Posted by: DR. RAUPP ; madora (IP Logged)
Date: July 07, 2005 08:26AM ; ;

Scientists at the University of Nottingham are working with researchers in
Mexico to develop new varieties of wheat that could combine the best
characteristics of British and Mexican types to bring about a quantum leap
in yield while increasing the sustainability of UK agriculture, July 2005.

The researchers are collaborating with the International Centre for Wheat
and Maize Improvement (CIMMYT), a relationship strengthened by a recent
workshop in Mexico supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences
Research Council (BBSRC). With their CIMMYT colleagues the UK researchers
will explore the characteristics of crossing novel Central American
varieties of wheat that have bigger and more fertile ears with UK varieties
that have smaller ears but higher capacities for photosynthesis.

The research team is using a range of techniques, including comparative
genetics, developmental biology and plant physiology, to help them to
understand what it is that results in the Mexican varieties having bigger
ears. If they could successfully find a way to get UK varieties of wheat to
grow with bigger ears then the yield of a crop could potentially be
increased in a sustainable way without the need for extra water or

Professor Michael Holdsworth, Professor of Crop Science at the University of
Nottingham, said, "We have evidence that UK wheat plants have the capability
from photosynthesis to produce more material than they do at the moment but
they are limited by the size of their ears. We hope that the research we are
doing could lift these limitations and enable traditional crossing between
lines so that breeders can produce wheat varieties that would thrive in the
British climate but produce much higher yields."

Professor Julia Goodfellow, Chief Executive of BBSRC, said, "Sustainable
agriculture is a key aim of BBSRC. Research such as this shows how work on
the fundamental physiology of a plant could identify the underlying causes
of desirably traits, such as larger ears, that could help us to increase
yields while reducing the environmental 'footprint' of agriculture."

Notes to Editors

The collaboration between the University of Nottingham and CIMMYT scientists
was strengthened by a workshop in Mexico funded by BBSRC with contributions
from the commercial plant breeding sector.

BBSRC is the UK's principal funder of basic plant science research. In 2003
BBSRC undertook a consultation and review of the future direction of its
crop science research. The review made its recommendations in early 2004.
More information about the review and recommendations are available at:


The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK
funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government,
BBSRC annually invests around ?336 million in a wide range of research that
makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and
supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the
agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.


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