Wheat is one of the world’s leading sources of food and thus has an essential role to play in meeting the needs of the increasing global population. However, wheat yields are plateauing as a direct result of a lack of genetic variation, compounded by environmental change. Thus there is an urgent need to identify new sources of genetic variation that can be used to develop superior wheat varieties.
Wheat is related to a large number of other species many of which are wild and uncultivated. These wild relatives, unlike wheat, provide a vast and largely untapped reservoir of genetic variation for potentially most, if not all, agronomically important traits, which can be used in the development of new higher yielding varieties, adapted to the changing environment.
The primary objective of the Nottingham/BBSRC Wheat Research Centre (WRC) at Sutton Bonington is to transfer genetic variation for agronomically and scientifically important traits from wild and distantly related species into wheat and to distribute the germplasm generated world wide for exploitation in breeding programmes and in scientific research.
The WRC’s research, which is part of the WISP Programme, is underpinned by funding from the BBSRC and Nottingham University in addition to a range of other funders from both the public and private sectors. Key collaborators include JIC, the University of Bristol, Rothamsted Research, NIAB, CIMMYT, ICARDA, the IIWBR, the University of Sydney, CAS, the USDA, the University of Pelotas.
Director: Professor Ian King Scientific Director: Dr Julie King
Wheat Pre-breeding LOLA /Wheat Improvement Strategic Programme/ consortium at Nottingham
The WISP consortium is a BBSRC funded collaborative programme bringing together experts in wheat genetics and breeding from five institutions. WISP is a comprehensive pre-breeding programme - the first of its kind in over 20 years - aiming to guarantee the sustainability of wheat production against the background of growing global population and changing environment.
Specific goals of the project are to:
- Understand the genetics behind factors limiting grain yield, such as drought tolerance, plant shape and resistance to pests and diseases.
- Identify new and useful genetic variation from related species and sources of wheat germplasm not adapted to target environments.
- Cross wheat lines to produce germplasm that allows the identification of genes influencing key traits.
- Generate a database of genetic markers, for use in precision breeding.
The good news for growers is that both the new germplasm and the information generated by this project will be made freely available. That means plant breeders can use the germplasm to cross with their existing lines, while academics will be able to make use of it to understand the mechanistic basis of key traits in bread wheat.
The main project website is http://www.wheatisp.org/