Enhancing diversity in UK wheat through a public sector prebreeding programme

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Sch of Biosciences

Abstract

Food security is becoming a critical issue both in the UK and worldwide due to rapid population expansion, dietary changes, climate change and declining fossil fuel stocks. In the next 50 years, we will need to grow as much wheat grain as has been produced since the beginning of agriculture, some 10,000 years ago. The requirement to enhance the amount of wheat grown in the UK creates a major challenge for research. We need to develop new wheat varieties which have higher yields with lower nutrient requirements, whilst retaining the quality of the grain. Historically the Plant Breeding Institute (PBI) made experimental crosses with wild wheats and related grasses, capable of transferring traits of high agronomic potential into wheat, but still requiring further breeder selection to generate varieties with elite performance. However, the PBI was privatised in 1987 and research developing new experimental crosses of this kind almost stopped. This has created a major bottleneck for wheat breeders, because they do not have the necessary new experimental lines from which to develop new varieties with increased yield. The objective of this proposal is to re-establish a pre-breeding programme in wheat developing such experimental crosses in the UK. Such a pre-breeding programme will produce wheat germplasm, characterised for the next generation of key traits, such as yield, and will identify genetic markers for selecting these traits, in breeding programmes and for the academic community. We will develop novel pre-breeding wheat germplasm, using three different but complementary strategies, to maximise the introduction of diversity and beneficial traits into a range of wheat lines. First we will develop germplasm from crosses involving wheat landraces or locally adapted varieties, derived from exiting germplasm collections. Secondly we will create synthetic hexaploid wheats by artificially crossing tetraploid or 'pasta' wheats with diploid wheat progenitors. This captures diversity in both the tetraploid and diploid wheat progenitors. The potential of these synthetics is illustrated by their success in the CIMMYT breeding programme. Thirdly we will use a technique called alien introgression, to transfer small segments of chromosomes of wild relatives containing the target genes, into wheat. Wild and cultivated relatives (alien species) provide a wealth of genetic variation for all characters of importance relative to yield, climate change and the environment. The impact of this approach has been illustrated by the transfer of rust resistance by Sears in the US saving its economy several billion dollars in the intervening years. The parental material used in the initial prebreeding crosses will be characterised to ensure the maximal levels of diversity are being exploited. New sequencing technologies will be used to generate very high density maps, providing the breeding companies with markers for 'precision' breeding, and the academic researchers with markers for fine dissection of key traits. Key target traits relating to yield, of interest to both UK breeders and academics, have been identified. We will screen for, biomass and enhanced N and P use efficiency, Take-All and insect resistance including Bulb fly and Aphids. The programme will not involve the actual cloning of the genes responsible for these particular traits, but will provide the germplasm as the starting point for such projects. The new germplasm generated in this project will be exploited by breeders for crossing with their elite lines to develop new varieties for use by farmers. All the information generated in the programme will be stored in a central database, and seed stored centrally, both being freely available within the UK to both academics and breeders alike.

Technical Summary

We propose a pre-breeding wheat programme to develop novel populations containing key agronomic traits as starting materials for the development of new varieties by plant breeders and the main resource for understanding the biological basis of these key traits. In collaboration with key stakeholders we have identified the most relevant and important yield and quality traits to study. We will focus on biomass and nutrient use efficiency, Take-all resistance and resistance to Bulb fly and Aphids. The programme will be structured around three complementary 'pillars', each of which will broaden the pool of genetic variation in wheat by a different route. The first will develop germplasm from crosses involving wheat landraces or locally adapted varieties, derived from the 'Watkins' and other collections. The second will create synthetic hexaploid wheats by artificially crossing tetraploid wheats with diploid wheat progenitors. This will capture diversity in both the tetraploid and diploid wheat progenitors. The third will use alien introgression to transfer small segments of chromosomes of wild relatives containing the target genes, into wheat. Wild and cultivated relatives (alien species) provide a wealth of genetic variation for all characters of importance relative to yield, climate change and the environment. A fourth pillar, which will involve the production of the elite performing wheat, will be undertaken independently by the breeding companies. The parental material used in the initial crosses will be genotyped, ensuring the maximal levels of diversity are being exploited. Next generation sequencing will generate very high density maps, providing the breeding companies with markers for 'precision' breeding, and academics with markers for fine dissection of key traits. Detailed phenotypic characterisation of the material will identify the best lines to be taken forward by the breeders and/or the academic partners to dissect the biology of the key traits.

Planned Impact

The development of a prebreeding programme to support the development of new varieties of wheat, a key crop for the UK, will have a major impact in addressing elements of the global challenge of food security. The beneficiaries of this work will be the UK wheat breeding community, the academic wheat community, international breeding centres and the Developing world. UK wheat breeders. The UK private wheat breeders have been consulted and engaged at every stage of the development of this proposal to ensure that this proposal and the consequent outputs are entirely relevant to their requirements. In recognition of the potential impact of this work, the British Society of Plant Breeders (BSPB), have written to BBSRC giving their strong support to the initiative. In discussion with the breeders, we have defined the populations, genotyping and phenotyping to be undertaken, with the collective objective of generating germplasm characterised for increased biomass, resource use efficiency and resistances to disease and insects. These are priority biological targets that the breeders have identified as being of most importance to them. Thus, as the germplasm is generated and characterised during the course of the programme, it will be available for trialling by the breeders within their own programmes. In addition, the breeders will be key stakeholders on the steering committee for the programme, ensuring that they remain informed and influential in determining the focus on specific populations to be generated and traits to study. This engagement will maxmise the BBSRC investment in relation to the development of economically relevant varieties. The programme will provide a direct bridge between the UK plant community funded by BBSRC and the privately funded wheat breeding programmes. Economic impact. The USDA reviewed the impact of the PBI pre-breeding programme before it closed in 1987. It concluded that the investment return of this programme for the UK economy covered the costs of all future research of an institute like the John Innes Centre well into the 21st century. There are clear examples of the exploitation of wild relatives and exotic germplasm to introduce novel resistance, yield or drought characteristics into wheat which have resulted in economic impacts globally of hundreds of million and in some cases billions of dollars. One example being the dwarfing gene for the green revolution introduced via a Japanese wheat Norin 10 from a Japanese landrace Shiro Daruma. Close on half the resistance genes for stem rust and leaf rust resistance originated in species which were not either bread or pasta wheats. More recently 25% of wheat now produced for Developing countries from CIMMYT's wheat programme is derived from wheat synthetics. If a novel source of Take-All resistance in wild species can be transferred to wheat, this would substantially alter european farming and crop rotation. International Breeding Centres. Many of the academics within this programme are also involved in interactions with CIMMYT, INRA, GATES foundation and wheat breeding programmes in the US and Australia. There is the opportunity during the course of this programme to enhance the exploitation of the germplasm generated by making it available through interactions with these international centres as many of the targets identified are also important to their own breeding programmes. Social and Training impact. Following privatisation of the PBI, wheat researchers with a whole range of skills have become dispersed across different types of institutes and universities in the UK. This programme will bring that skill base together, providing a framework within which young researchers can be trained in a wide range of skills involved in population development, genotyping and phenotyping. These key skills will be required to underpin future UK wheat programmes both in the public and private sectors.
 
Description The objective of this programme is to introgress chromosome segments from distant relatives into wheat. The rationale of this programme is to increase the genetic variation available to wheat breeders to enable them to breed new, superior, high-yielding wheat varieties that are adapted to environmental change. To date we have already generated far more wheat/distant relative introgressions than have previously been reported. In fact the programme appears to have exceeded all expectations. In addition, in collaboration with the University of Bristol we have developed a novel marker platform and developed cutting edge molecular cytogenetic techniques.
Exploitation Route The exploitation of the germplasm generated for the development of superior wheat varieties adapted to the changing environment.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink

URL http://www.wheatisp.org/
 
Description Although the introgression programme at Nottingham has only been running since the summer of 2011 it has already had considerable impact worldwide. Underlying the success of the programme is the fact that it has resulted in a step change in the frequency of transfer of genetic variation into wheat from its wild and distant relatives. The material generated is under demand globally. An indication of the material being generated can be seen through the strong (funded) collaborative links with India (The Indian Institute of Wheat and Barley Research; Agharkar Research Institute), Australia (University of Sydney; CSIRO), Brazil (University of Pelotas), China (Chinese Academy of Sciences), Hungary (Martonvásár), Mexico (CIMMYT), Africa (ICARDA). Funders include the BBSRC, the Indian government, DFID, the Global Crop Diversity Trust (Norway), the ERC, the International Wheat Yield Partnership, the Newton Fund (INue) In addition to this further collaborations are being developed including those with Universities within the US, Australia and the Borlaug Foundation. The programme has also attracted interest from the private sector, i.e. a fully funded IP sensitive PhD studentship with a commercial company. Wheat breeding companies who have requested and received seed to date include KWS, Syngenta, Limagrain. However, the amount of interest shown in the material by the commercial sector is steadily growing with future partners including BioTrigio Genetica (Brazil), RAGT and Bayer. The Nottingham/BBSRC Wheat Research Centre has thus quickly established itself as an international centre for research and germplasm development in the field of wheat/wild relative introgression. Following funding for this programme was awarded by the BBSRC via the Wheat Institute Strategic Programme and recently via the Designing Future Wheat (DFW) Programme. Recent developments are described under the DFW programme.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink
Impact Types Economic

 
Description Global Crop Diversity Trust
Amount $524,833 (USD)
Organisation Global Crop Diversity Trust 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country Germany
Start 11/2014 
End 10/2017
 
Description International Wheat Yield Partnership
Amount £1,250,000 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/N021061/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2016 
End 02/2019
 
Description Monsanto Beachell-Borlaug International Scholarship Program
Amount $172,800 (USD)
Organisation Monsanto 
Sector Private
Country United States
Start 09/2015 
End 08/2018
 
Description Newton Fund
Amount £1,600,000 (GBP)
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2016 
End 12/2018
 
Description University of Nottingham Beacon fellowship
Amount £45,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Nottingham 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2018 
End 04/2019
 
Title Germplasm generation and distribution 
Description A series of amphidiploids and introgression lines have been distributed world wide to both the public (CIMMYT in Mexico; ICARDA in Morocco; Indian Institute of Wheat and Barley Research and the Agarkhar Institute in India; University of Sydney in Australia; Rothamsted Research in the UK; NIAB in the UK) and private sectors (KWS; Syngenta; Limagrain). These and additional lines are also due to be distributed to further institutions during 2016 onwards. 
Type Of Material Biological samples 
Year Produced 2014 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Phenotypic analysis will be undertaken by our global partners which will enable us to identify introgressions which carry genes for key agronomic traits. Targeted introgressions will be incorporated into elite breeding lines in order to develop superior, high yielding wheat varieties that are adapted to the changing environment world wide. 
URL http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/wisp/wild-relative-gene-introgression/breeders-toolkit.aspx
 
Description ICARDA MOU 
Organisation International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas
Country Syrian Arab Republic 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution A long term agreement has been made (including an MOU) between the University of Nottingham and ICARDA to supply germplasm generated in the research program to ICARDA for large scale phenotypic analysis in Africa.
Collaborator Contribution ICARDA are providing information on trait analysis of the lines we have generated. This will enable us to identify key germplasm that will be used for the development of superior varieties
Impact Germplasm has been sent to ICARDA and germplasm has been sent from ICARDA to Nottingham
Start Year 2015
 
Description India 
Organisation Indian Institute of Wheat and Barley Research
Country India 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution A long term agreement (above and beyond the present program) has been made between the University of Nottingham and the IIWBR to supply India with germplasm generated in the research program for large scale phenotypic analysis in India.
Collaborator Contribution The IIWBR are providing information on trait analysis of the lines we have generated. This will enable us to identify key germplasm that will be used for the development of superior varieties
Impact Germplasm has been supplied to India and phenotypic data has been provided to Nottingham
Start Year 2015
 
Description MOU - CIMMYT 
Organisation International Centre for Maize and Wheat Improvement (CIMMYT)
Country Mexico 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution A new memorandum of understanding and agreement has been signed by the University of Nottingham and CIMMYT. Germplasm generated in the research programm is now being supplied to CIMMYT for large scale phenotypic analysis in Mexico.
Collaborator Contribution CIMMYT are providing information on trait analysis of the lines we have generated. This will enable us to identify key germplasm that will be used for the development of superior varieties
Impact Germplasm has been sent from Nottingham to CIMMYT for analysis
Start Year 2015
 
Description MOU-University of Sydney 
Organisation University of Sydney
Country Australia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We are providing germplasm to the University of Sydney/Plant Breeding Institute
Collaborator Contribution The University of Sydney are screening our germplasm for drought tolerance, water use efficiency and for genes resistant to rust.
Impact Introgression lines currently being analysed for drought tolerance and disease resistance in Australia.
Start Year 2012
 
Description 11th International Congress of Plant Molecular Biology 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited speaker (Surbhi Mehra - Research fellow)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description 3rd Plant Genomics Congress 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited speaker (Julie King)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Borlaug Training Foundation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Lecture to postdoctoral students on the Borlaug Training Foundation course at CIMMYT
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Breedwheat/WISP meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited presentation
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Central European Wheat breeding Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Invited speaker
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Crop Diversity Trust meeting at the Millenium seedbank, Wakehurst Place 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Invited lecture
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Federal University of Pelotas, Brazil 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Invited visit and lecture
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description India Institute of Wheat and Barley Research 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Invited visit and lecture
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description International Wheat Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Keynote speaker (Julie King)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description International Wheat Yield Partnership meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited presentation (Julie King) to the IWYP consortium
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Kansas State University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited visit and lecture
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Lecture to industrial company 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Invited speakers Ian and Julie King
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Mini Symposium on Cereal Genomics to Address Grand Challenges 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Invited talk by PhD student (Jaswant Singh)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Monogram 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited talk by postdoctoral student
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Norman Borlaug 100 Global Food Security Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Keynote speaker.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description PAG plenary 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Plenary lecture by Julie King at the Plant and Animal Genome Conference, San Diego, January 2019. Discussions about potential collaborations are now in progress.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Plant and Animal Genome Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Invited talk by postgraduate
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Plant and Animal Genome Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Invited presentation at the Plant and Animal Genome Conference, San Diego.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Plant and Animal Genome Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Invited speaker (Julie King)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Summer school 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Summer school aimed at school pupils post GCSE.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014,2015