BBSRC IPA: Improving the nitogen response of UK wheat varieties

Lead Research Organisation: Rothamsted Research
Department Name: Unlisted

Abstract

Wheat is the most important crop in the UK, giving average yields of about 8 tonnes per hectare and being used for food and livestock feed. However, the high yields and the high protein contents required for breadmaking both require high inputs of nitrogen (N) fertiliser which is not sustainable in terms of cost, energy requirement for fertiliser production and environmental footprint. Furthermore, year to year variation in the weather conditions result in considerable variation in grain processing quality, which may necessitate the import of high volumes of wheat in some years with impacts on the cost of bread and other foods. It is therefore crucial that UK wheat production and quality are maintained to guarantee food security and maintain prosperity of the farming and food processing sectors. Data from field trials show that currently grown wheat varieties show significant variation in their response to N fertiliser, and in particular in their ability to produce grain with high protein content at the same levels of N application. Furthermore, they also differ in the extent to which the composition and quality of the grain are affected by environmental fluctuations.
We propose to determine the molecular basis for these differences:
1. by growing varieties known to differ in their response to N fertilisation and stability of quality in replicate field trials over several sites in the UK and three harvest years.
2. We will perform broad transcriptome analysis of developing grain across germplasm, nitrogen input, site and year
3. Collect corresponding final grain samples for protein and functional analysis
4. For selected germplasm we will examine processes in canopy tissue contributing to yield/N remobilisation
5. Expression of selected genes will be analysed in greater depth
6. All data sets will be integrated to correlate functionality with underlying processes/genes

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