April 12, 2016, by Lindsay Brooke

Back to the ‘wild’ – Nottingham BBSRC Wheat Research Centre opens

The new Nottingham/BBSRC Wheat Research Centre has been officially opened by ‘super woman of wheat’ and influential advocate for wheat research and science Jeanie Borlaug Laube. Jeanie is the daughter of Norman E Borlaug who received a Nobel Prize for his lifetime of work to feed a hungry world. She toured the glasshouses at The University of Nottingham’s Sutton Bonington Campus where the search is on for new varieties of high yeilding wheat that can cope with climate change and feed a growing global population.

This search has taken husband and wife team, Professor Ian and Dr Julie King in the School of Biosciences, back to wild and distant relatives of bread wheat. They are looking for any agronomically important traits and transferring them into modern varieties of wheat. The newly created germplasm will be distributed worldwide for exploitation in international breeding programmes and scientific research.

The new Wheat Research Centre is equipped with technology that can speed up the process of natural hybridisation. This new industrial scale ‘shotgun’ approach to plant breeding in has only been made possible through technological advances and specific breeding strategies but it could help to guarantee the sustainability of one of our leading sources of food.

WRC is part of the BBSRC funded Wheat Improvement Strategic Programme (WISP). New technological advances (developed in a collaboration between Nottingham, Bristol University and the company Affymetrix and also Nottingham and the Chinese Academy of Sciences) are now enabling the high throughput detection of single chromosome segments (introgressions) from wild relatives, which carry new genetic variation, introduced into wheat. This means the Nottingham group can transfer these tiny bits of genetic information from the wild relatives into wheat on a large scale creating a step change in the search for new varieties of wheat that will cope with disease and climate change and help feed a growing population.

Pictures courtesy of The University of Nottingham. Pictures taken by Andrew Hallsworth.


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