Global wheat project aims to increase yields by 50 percent

A new global wheat initiative has been launched to raise yields and develop new varieties better able to cope with disease, drought and other stressesThe international Wheat Yield Network (WYN) is a long-term project that aims to increase wheat yields using sustainable methods by up to 50 percent during the next 20 years.

Crop experts at the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) are working with research organisations in 16 countries, including the USA and Mexico, for the project. Steve Visscher, deputy chief executive of BBSRC, said: “Wheat is one of the world’s most important staple crops, but it is under great pressure at a time when we need to find ways to feed our growing global population while also adapting to climate.

“The challenge of increasing yields and developing new varieties is too big for any one agency or country to meet. By working together, sharing infrastructure, expertise and results, the partners in the Wheat Yield Initiative believe we can make a greater impact.” The WYN has been established within the framework of the G20-sponsored Wheat Initiative. Over the first five years the partners are planning to invest US$50-75m (UK£31-47m).

Wheat provides about 20 percent of the daily global calories consumed by mankind, yet production faces myriad pressures such as climate change and changes in land use, compounded by the overriding pressure to feed a burgeoning global population. Wheat is the second most important food crop in the developing world after rice.

The world population is forecast to rise to nine billion by 2050, when wheat demand is expected to increase by 70 percent. To meet the demand, annual wheat yield increases must grow from the current level of below one percent to at least 1.7 percent.

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