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Modified wheat could help tackle global food shortages

Researchers at the University of York have created a new modified wheat variety that increases grain production by up to 12%. 

Wheat is one of the most important food crops in the world, providing 20% of all human calories.

With ever-increasing global food demand and climate change impacting our food security, increasing crop yields is critically important.

In a bid to tackle this issue, the researchers have directly modified the growth of the young developing grain by increasing the amount of protein that controls growth rates in plants.

This resulted in plants that produced grain that are up to 12% bigger than the conventional variety.

Professor Simon McQueen-Mason, from the University of York’s Centre for Novel Agricultural Products (CNAP), said: ‘Experts predict that we need to increase global food production by 50% by 2030 in order to meet demand from population growth.

‘The negative impacts of climate change on crop yields are making this even more challenging. While researchers are working hard to meet this challenge, there remains a lot to do.

‘Attempts to increase the yield of wheat have been thwarted by the apparent trade-off between grain size and grain number. We decided to side-step this complex control system by giving a boost to the natural growth system that controls the size of plant tissues.

‘We did this by increasing the levels of a protein called expansin, which is a major determinant of growth in plants. We targeted this modification so that it was confined to developing wheat grain, and are delighted by the results.’

Photo Credit – Pixabay

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