Scientists unlock key to drought-tolerant wheat varieties

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 Scientists discover key to drought-tolerant wheat varieties

Growing wheat in dry conditions to produce bread to feed the hungry may be easier in the future thanks to new genetic research from the University of Haifa and UC Davis.

According to an article published in the journal Nature Communications, an international team of scientists has found that the right number of copies of certain genes can stimulate longer root growth, allowing wheat plants to get water deeper.

“ new tools to re-architect wheat roots to withstand dry conditions, — said Gilad Gabai, Ph.D., University of California and author of the paper.

Plants that can adapt to low water conditions will be key to growing enough grain for the population in the face of global warming, he said.< br />
Until now, little has been known about the genes that affect the root structure of wheat. The discovery of the gene family known as OPRIII, and that different copies of these genes affect root length, is an important step.

“Tuning the dose of OPRIII genes could allow us to create a root system adapted to drought, normal conditions and various scenarios“— Gabai explained. Knowing the right combination of genes means that researchers can look for wheat varieties that have these natural variations and select them for use by growers who plant in dry conditions.

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