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Wheat For The Next Generation

Scientists are working to develop wheat that can resist drought and feed the 2.3 billion people predicted to live on Earth in the next 50 years.


Photo: Rae Allen (flickr)

Wheat of the future will have to make more food with less water and nitrogen.

Feeding An Ever Growing World

In a time when federal funding is hard to come by, a $25 million research grant is a big deal. Of course, it was awarded to a team of agronomists for their work on a big problem – how to feed an extra 2.3 billion people predicted to live on Earth in the next 50 years.

Headed by geneticist Jorge Dubcovsky and a team from UC Davis, 55 researchers and experts from 21 states will be studying wheat and barley breeds in an attempt to find plants that will adapt best to the pressures of an ever expanding population.

More Grains, Less Water

Challenges with wheat will be to produce more food with less nitrogen and less water, all in the face of globally distributed diseases and rising temperatures. The researchers are looking to rye, which is particularly drought-hardy and better at recovering water from the soil than wheat. As weather patterns are altered by climate change, it is imperative to human survival that food crops are able to adapt.

Currently, wheat provides 1/5 of the world’s calories but is being planted less and less because it does not yield a profit as compared to other grains like rice.

Grants For Forests

The UC Davis was also awarded a federal grant to work on sequencing genomes of pine and fir trees to find varieties that have fast-growing trees. As deforestation is rampant in many areas of the world, these trees can be used for fuel and power and can also be planted to help stop climate change.

The funding for this project came from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative. This program, established by the 2008 Farm Bill, funds plant and animal health, production, research, and economics.

Read More:

  • Wheat Research for a Hotter, More Crowded Planet (The New York Times)
  • UC Davis receives $40 M to lead major multistate ag research programs (UC Davis)
Julie Rooney

Julie Rooney is a vegetarian, musician, and artist who primarily works in video and new media. Currently she is the director of Low Road Gallery, a non-profit contemporary art gallery located in Greencastle, Indiana.

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