Wheat myth debunked by a major new study

Wheat myth debunked
Kai Voss-Fels at the wheat trial site. Credit: Kai Voss-Fels

The myth that modern wheat varieties are more heavily reliant on pesticides and fertilisers is debunked by new research published in Nature Plants today.

Lead author on the paper, Dr. Kai Voss-Fels, a research fellow at The University of Queensland, said modern wheat cropping varieties actually out-perform older varieties in both optimum and harsh growing conditions.

"There is a view that intensive selection and breeding which has produced the high-yielding wheat cultivars used in modern cropping systems has also made modern wheat less resilient and more dependent on chemicals to thrive," said Dr. Voss-Fels.

"However, the data unequivocally shows that modern wheat varieties out-perform older varieties, even under conditions of reduced amounts of fertilisers, fungicides and water," he said.

"We also found that within the often-criticised modern wheat gene pool is rich enough to generate a further 23 per cent increase in yields."

Dr. Voss-Fels said the findings might surprise some farmers and environmentalists.

"Quite a few people will be taken aback by just how tough modern wheat varieties proved to be, even in harsh growing conditions, such as drought, and using less chemical inputs."

Dr. Voss-Fels said the findings could have potentially important implications for raising the productivity of organic cropping systems."It's been widely assumed that the older wheat cultivars are more robust and resilient but it's actually the modern cultivars that perform best in optimum and sub-optimum conditions."

Wheat is the world's most important food crop.

However, with global wheat yields reduced due to droughts in recent years and more climate risk anticipated in the future, the hardiness of modern wheat varieties is an issue of global significance.

The study is believed to provide the most detailed description of the consequences of intensive breeding and genetic selection for high grain yield and associated traits in European wheat over the past 50 years.

It was led by Professor Rod Snowdon of the Justus-Liebig-University Gießen (JLU), who is also an honorary Professor at UQ, in collaboration with seven other German universities.

The genetic analysis was undertaken at QAAFI under the leadership of Professor Ben Hayes.

The first part of the study involved testing 200 varieties that have been essential to agriculture in Western Europe in the past 50 years.

Performance was compared between those varieties in side-by-side field trials under high, medium and low chemical input conditions.The second part of the study was undertaken at QAAFI, to match the performance differences with the different varieties' genetic make-up.

"This genetic information allows us to take the discovery to the next level," Dr. Voss-Fels says.

"We can use artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to predict the optimal crosses needed to bring together the most favourable segments as fast as possible."

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More information: Breeding improves wheat productivity under contrasting agrochemical input levels, Nature Plants (2019). DOI: 10.1038/s41477-019-0445-5 , https://www.nature.com/articles/s41477-019-0445-5
Journal information: Nature Plants

Citation: Wheat myth debunked by a major new study (2019, June 17) retrieved 22 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-06-wheat-myth-debunked-major.html
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Jun 17, 2019
interesting how so much bad science is food related.

Jun 17, 2019
It's interesting how so much bad knowledge is money related.

The conspiracy of ignorance masquerades as common sense, like 97% consensus.

Jun 17, 2019
One wonders how much of this is propagated and exploited by Big Pharma, to the detriment of the environment and consumers.

Jun 17, 2019
well, people have this silly notion that they need to eat food on a regular basis to live.

when they face starvation?
they will accept any promises of miracle results.

obviously this article is intended as commiehippie propaganda.
displaying the continuous need for humancentric scientific research to answer the many confusing complexities of stochastic biology.

a deliberate effort to put the Public Welfare, peoples health issues
above corporate profits.

attempting to sabotage the fat profits corporations earn poisoning their customers.
& then more profits to be made selling the customers the cures.

do the commiehippies realize the humiliations they are causing corporate executives?
when the regulators (half-heatedly) attempt to enforce executive caste obedience to the laws & regulations against poisoning people?

the shame these persecuted execs must feel in the golf-club showers
as the other execs mock them submitting to the Rule of Law & Order!

Jun 18, 2019
people have this silly notion that they need to eat food on a regular basis to live.
Are you saying people don't need to eat food to live?

Jun 18, 2019
satire hunny, satire

commedia del arte

"if we cannot laugh at the buffoonery of Man?"

"we must weep at the condition of Humanity."

Jun 24, 2019
Wow! I don't hear anybody from the petrochemical companies howling this research down.
Perhaps there just thinking nobody will see it. Or are they just starting to realise the enormity of the global issues they have created chasing $

Jun 24, 2019
Well, looks like maybe we actually bred (i.e. genetically engineered the hard way) pretty good wheat.

Jun 24, 2019
Yup, makes sense. The genetic poverty would be important when environment changes (such as the current extremely rapid man made global warming) but else it is just efficiency of selection.

Jun 25, 2019
i have become uncomfortable with the entire idea of a patent-goldrush
deliberately singling out so few strains of any particular crop or animal for mass production.

it is becoming increasingly clear. that replacing a variety of genus with a single super-strain. is an evolutionary trap.

one just has to consider the deterioration of race horses
or can you name the last major achievement by any of America's blue-blooded in-bred aristocracy of historical importance?

now we are faced with major threats of global famine with delicate rice replacing hardy, nutricious millet.

see the history of the cassava & the yam. after centuries & millennia of distributing with cuttings.
i.e. cloning...
instead of the time it takes to grow from seeds?
The survivability & nutritional values are drastically reduced.

we need to reconsider our patent pillaging attitude.

& turn our efforts towards encouraging the development of multiple lineages
to achieve, to insure,
a sustainable future.

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