Resilient Wheat

Matt Wilde
By  Matthew Wilde , Progressive Farmer Crops Editor
(Provided by USDA ARS)

USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists are conducting stress experiments on wheat to help the crop better handle climate challenges ahead.

Researchers are subjecting more than a dozen wheat varieties to high levels of carbon dioxide (up to 1,000 parts per million) and a fungus known as Fusarium graminearum in a growth chamber at the ARS facility, in Peoria, Illinois. Both could jeopardize production and safety of the important staple cereal grain in the future.

Fusarium graminearum thrives under warm, wet conditions and causes Fusarium head blight. The disease can damage grain with mycotoxins and make it unsafe for food or feed use. High atmospheric levels of CO2 are projected for the turn of the century absent of mitigation measures, according to ARS.

The aim of the experiments is to preempt a worrisome metabolic response of Fusarium-head-blight-resistant wheat plants to high CO2 levels -- namely, a buildup of starch and other carbohydrates that corresponds to a drop in grain and mineral levels.

Researchers are also studying how the fungus itself behaves in wheat plants exposed to high CO2 levels.

"We are currently working with a number of university wheat breeders to identify climate-resilient, Fusarium-head-blight-resistant lines in order to address this food-safety and security issue," says William Hay, an ARS plant physiologist, in a press release. He's coleading the experiments to evaluate the resilience of different wheat varieties to stresses.

ARS published its findings in the journal "Scientific Reports." Find it at…


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