Many heads turned when drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, started hovering over the expansive farmlands of Kansas. It was not a military exercise. Researchers at Kansas State University are using drones for a very different purpose — to develop a climate-resilient wheat variety that can combat rising heat and drought.
MANHATTAN — A team of breeders and geneticists at Kansas State University and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, or CIMMYT, has come up with a new approach to determine if new varieties of bread wheat will have what it takes to make better bread.
Wheat breeders and scientists around the world will be able to download and use this invaluable new resource to accelerate crop improvement programs and wheat genomics research. The dataset will facilitate the identification of genes associated with important agricultural traits such as yield increase, stress response, and disease resistance and, ultimately, will make possible the production of improved wheat varieties for farmers.
Plant breeders test their experiments by growing the seeds of their labor. They cross two different plants that have desirable traits. They sow the resulting seeds and evaluate the results, hoping to find a candidate variety that is better than anything currently available.
The "laboratory" is often an outdoor field with thousands of plants. Farmers have monitored their fields for millennia by simply walking among the rows of plants, observing changes over time, and noting which plants do better.
Tucked quietly away in the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center is a treasure trove of genetics from around the globe. The Wheat Genetics Resource Center (WGRC) is an internationally-recognized gene bank that curates and houses more than 247,500 seeds from 2,500 wheat and wild wheat species accessions.