The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Applied Wheat Genomics is part of the U.S. government’s Feed the Future initiative to reduce global hunger and improve food security. The initiative uses research, education and outreach to advance solutions to hunger, poverty, and undernutrition in low-income countries.
Wheat is one of the most important staple crops worldwide and the principle source of nutrients and income for some of the world’s poorest countries. While the demand for wheat in developing countries is projected to increase by 60% by 2050, rising temperatures induced by climate change are expected to dramatically reduce production, leading to food insecurity and creating conditions for widespread social unrest.
Our vision is that through the application of new tools for genomics and breeding, we can ensure that the yield and economic value of small farm wheat crops in S. Asia increases rather than decreases through rapid development of superior climate-resilient wheat varieties.
This project signifies a new era of “big science” for international wheat improvement. Together with NARS partners, Kansas State University, CIMMYT, and Cornell University, we are generating the largest public resource of elite candidate wheat varieties with well characterized phenotype and genotype information, along with seed and DNA, in wheat history. This resource will inform the next stage in determining the optimized configuration of wheat breeding systems to support future generations. Furthermore, the wheat varieties generated by this project will have enhanced climate resilience; combining heat tolerance with heat avoidance (earliness), and maximized yield potential.
At present, we have field sites in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal. This large scale testing of candidate wheat varieties spans the wheat production region of about 40 million ha in the Indo-Gangetic Plains—this connected network of field testing is the largest multi-country testing in the world.
In tangent, our other aim is to strengthen the capacity of breeder scientists in our partner countries and the breeding stations for managing large field trials and increased germplasm. Through our program we have trained 12 PhD students and 5 postdoctoral fellows. We’ve leveraged partnerships and funding to deploy a series of breeding tools including electronic data collection with FieldBook, and have hosted focused on-site training sessions to increase capacity for large in-country field trial testing over a thousand field plots.
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