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Global wheat production can be doubled to feed millions and save land, say scientists

Wheat is the most cultivated crop in the world and second only to rice in terms of human consumption, with world harvests in the region of 750 million tons.
Scientists believe that global wheat production could be doubled by accessing the “untapped genetic potential” of the crop. By using modern techniques such as rapid breeding and gene editing, the international team behind the new research say it would be possible to breed new varieties of wheat adapted to each region in which they are grown. Depending on their genes, different varieties of global wheat production capture water, sunlight, and nutrients in different ways. The scientists propose that with an optimal genome, wheat crops could generate a higher grain yield per hectare.

Billions of pounds of Ukrainian wheat cannot be exported amid food crisis in developing countries. The study, led by the UK’s Rothamsted Research, used existing data on how different genes contribute to individual plant traits “such as size, shape, metabolism and growth”. They ran millions of simulations to efficiently design the perfect wheat plants that suit their local environments. Comparing them with locally adapted cultivars, they found in all cases that the current wheat varieties underperformed the grain. Dr. Mikhail Semenov, one of the study leaders, said: “Current wheat cultivars are, on average, only midway in the yields they could produce due to mismatches between their genetics and local conditions. of wheat cultivation. “Global wheat production could be doubled by genetically improving local wheat cultivars, without increasing the world’s global wheat production acreage,” he added. Study leader Dr. Nimai Senapati said that improving this “genetic yield gap” would help feed the world’s growing population and reduce pressure to convert wild habitats to farmland. Humans have grown wheat for millennia and the impact on our species has been enormous: agriculture is often described as the first revolutionary step in human civilization, as it led to settlements and evolved social structures.

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