Wheat: the winning resources against climate change come from the past

I climate changes are transforming the planet and to be at risk is also the grain. This cereal, essential for the sustenance of humanity, has to deal with various threats and to find the key tofuture feeding scientists turn to the past. A new project aims, then, to analyze the genetics of wheat varieties kept at the Natural History Museum to build the resilience.

The project

A team from the Natural History Museum in London thought about how to make wheat more resistant to climate change. The researchers decided to analyze the archives, which contain 12,000 samples of the cereal, which also date back to 1700. Each sample, made up of dry leaves, stems and/or ears, bears on thelabel place and date of collection. In the collection there is also a variety of wild wheat obtained from James Cook. Scientists aim to map genetically the most promising species, i.e. those potentially capable of to adapt to new climate and parasites. There digitizationin progress, of the entire archive will facilitate the comparison.

Wheat, climate change and nutrition

Climate change is making it difficult for wheat to survive. In the world the extreme weather events they are multiplying and both heat waves and droughts, as well as violent rainfall, threaten crops. According to estimates, if the temperature were to grow by another 1°C, wheat production would drop by 6.4%. Every year pesticides e diseases they then reduce the harvest by a fifth compared to forecasts and the global warming contributes to their spread. The war in Ukraine aggravates the situation and the future prospects are worrying. Wheat is, in fact, a staple food of the diet, given that it is used in the preparation of bread, pasta, baked goods and desserts.

From the wheat of the past to that of the future

To make wheat more resistant to climate change, analysis genetics of species that were once widespread on Earth is a great resource. Thanks to it, scientists can, in fact, examine the characteristics of crops prima of the advent of modern agricultural techniques. Between the 1950s and 1960s, the tendency to favor the most productive varieties of wheat significantly reduced the diversity genetics out there.

Today, researchers aim to identify the “winning” genes, and then bring them back to the present. The classic crossing mechanisms will thus be joined by those of genetic engineering. Through genomic editing it is, in fact, now possible to intervene in a rather precise way. The objectives also include the development of crops that contain higher quantities of nutrients.

I projects they are already proving to be effective in developing wheat capable of surviving climate change. The researchers of the John Innes Center in Norwich they have already used their 100-year-old seed collections to create more disease-resistant crosses. According to estimates the population world will, however, reach 9.3 billion people by 2050 and the way to make up for the requirement of wheat is still long.

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