Adaptive winter wheat populations: development, genetic characterisation and application

Lead Research Organisation: John Innes Centre
Department Name: Contracts Office


Utilising adaptive winter wheat populations for increased economic and environmental returns
Significant markets for low-input cereals are emerging to satisfy demands for more environmentally friendly food and achieving government targets that require a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions. Over recent years there has been a 30% increase in organic grain consumption, but the organic arable land area has remained relatively static over the same period. The major shortfalls in low input production are in both yield (4 to 5 t/ha modal range) and quality, and are principally the result of a lack of appropriate varieties. Current inbred line wheat cultivars have not been selected for low-input conditions, which are often highly variable and likely to become more so with climate change. Greater stability and improved wheat crop performance can be achieved by increasing the genetic diversity of the crop. A possible effective solution is to use Composite Cross Populations (CCPs) of segregating offspring from a wide range of parents specifically selected for mixed performance. By exposing populations in successive years to different environments, it is possible to select for effective buffering against variation in performance. This project will build on previous work which exploits wheat populations developed for low-input conditions (Defra funded project AR 0914) which have performed well under both organic and non-organic trial conditions, demonstrating a greater ability than their parents to yield well in both low and high yielding environments. This proposal aims to further quantify the degree and processes of adaptation in these wheat populations, using a combination of genetic analyses and field experiments, to direct and deliver the concept through participatory interactions among scientists, farmers and processors.


10 25 50
Description Complex populations grown as farm crops reduce the allele frequency of certain key loci very quickly.
Exploitation Route The germplasm is unique and now grown in many organic farming situations with a high level of public, industry and media interest (see A full genome scan is likely to reveal many other loci under selection during in crop competition.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment

Description The populations are widely grown by organic farmers and used by artisan millers and bakers.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services