Targeting increased wheat yields

CSIRO, Bayer CropScience and the Australian Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) have formed a partnership to increase yield in wheat.

Through genetic modification, CSIRO has developed wheat that produces significantly more grain. Bayer CropScience and CSIRO aim to further develop this technology, cultivating ideas and answers to bring about new solutions to farmer's needs. Financial details of the collaboration were not released in the statement issued on Monday.

The partnership builds on the discovery by CSIRO of a gene technology that enables up to 30 per cent increase of wheat yield in glasshouse trials. The GRDC and CSIRO provided initial research funding and Bayer CropScience will now join them to support the next stage of development.

“We are committed to pursuing innovation in wheat varieties that will lead to increased productivity and meet the need for sustainable solutions for wheat production on a global scale, for example by increasing yields, increasing nutrient use efficiency and making plants more tolerant to stressful growing conditions such as drought or heat,” said Dr Mathias Kremer, head of the BioScience business unit at Bayer CropScience.

“This is a complex scientific challenge and a long road for development, which we believe will benefit from partnerships with some of the best innovators in the world and make use of all the tools available to help wheat farmers access these significant gains sooner,” Dr Kremer said.

Bayer CropScience follows industry best practices in the development and commercialisation of plant biotech products, including GM wheat, in consultation with key stakeholders and regulatory requirements around the world.

“With this technology, we see more vigorous wheat with increased vegetative growth, larger seed heads and larger seed,” said Dr Bruce Lee, director of CSIRO’s Food Futures Flagship.

“If we can achieve significant yield increases in the field, this will have a major impact on food production on a global scale.”

GRDC managing director John Harvey said that improving crop yield will benefit grain growers.

“Increasing wheat yields under the water limited environments that Australian growers face is a significant driver for GRDC investments," Mr Harvey said.

"This yield technology is an exciting discovery that could lead to a significant impact on wheat productivity.”

With a total global production of over 650 million tonnes of wheat a year, wheat is one of the most important food crops needed to support the global population, the statement reads.

The continuing rapid increase in the world’s population, predicted to reach 9 billion by 2050, will put pressure on existing food systems to produce more, so increasing yield in crops like wheat is a crucial step forwards, it says.

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