Heat-tolerant wheat to boost production in the face of climate change

Heat-tolerant wheat to boost production in the face of climate change

Heat-tolerant wheat could soon be available

Gene editing has widespread agricultural applications. It helps reduce climate change’s effects on plants and increase crop production. Rising ambient temperatures are a severe problem for crop yields. Scientists are working to develop new wheat varieties through DNA modification. These include heat-tolerant wheat, allowing the plant to grow in areas with high temperatures and low rainfall.

Heat is the enemy of the crop

Wheat is a strategically important crop for the world market, ranking first in terms of consumption. However, heat and drought are significantly reducing yields and grain quality.
According to global studies, wheat production fell by 5.5% between 1980 and 2010. This is due to the rise in global temperatures caused by climate change. As a result, scientists in many countries are working to develop varieties that can withstand these changes.
Specialists at the John Innes Centre are looking at genes that allow crops to thrive at high temperatures. The optimum temperature for wheat, for example, is 17-23°C. Within these limits, meiosis takes place most efficiently. During meiosis, the parent chromosomes of the plant line up in pairs next to each other. In this way, they form a synaptoneme complex that connects the chromosomes. At this stage, the chromosomes combine to form seeds. However, this process is sensitive to both high and low temperatures.heat-tolerant wheat

Successes in developing new varieties

Scientists had previously identified the DMC1 gene, which protects meiosis from temperature fluctuations. Scientists at the John Innes Centre, led by Graham Moore, have confirmed this function. They are working to use this gene function to improve the heat tolerance of cereals. Using CRISPR-Cas9 technology, the researchers created a modified form of Chinese spring wheat. This variety lacks DMC1, allowing the scientists to observe the effects of different temperatures on the crop’s maturation. The results were as follows:
— grains grown at 13°C had a 95% reduction in the number of cross-pollinations;
— plants grown at 30°C showed a decrease in cross-pollination and univalence. However, the reduction started 24 hours after meiosis and was less pronounced than in the first case.
The scientists concluded that DMC1 promotes meiosis at both low and high temperatures. Working with this gene will help to develop better wheat varieties. In particular, the researchers are focusing on creating heat-resistant grains. Moore’s team is also looking for genes that provide additional protection for the plant. They hope to develop frost-resistant varieties that produce high yields in the future.