New wheat initiative aims to raise yield potential 50 percent

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Representatives from 16 countries and international organizations recently agreed to launch an initiative to increase wheat's genetic yield potential by 50 percent in the next 20 years.

The group met in Mexico City in mid-November to set up the framework for the multinational initiative, known as the Wheat Yield Network (WYN).

According to a release by the United Kingdom's Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), which pushed for the creation of the WYN, the new effort will support research and development activities to raise global wheat yields and develop new varieties adapted to different geographical regions.

The creation of the WYN follows on the heels of the establishment of the Wheat Initiative through the G20 in 2011, with which the WYN will seek to coordinate. The G20's Wheat Initiative aims to create opportunities for coordination of national and international research programs dedicated to wheat and to enhance platforms for sharing of data between wheat researchers.

To help facilitate WYN's ambitious yield goal, WYN partners are planning to invest $50-75 million in the next five years, with details of operations and structures still to be determined.

The intention of the network is to bring together funding from governmental and non-governmental entities to support basic and applied wheat research. A key focus of the WYN will be looking at boosting wheat yields through improvements to the plant's fundamental processes including photosynthesis.

"The Wheat Yield Network will aim to improve the yield potential of wheat by improving the physiology of the wheat plant itself, then combining those improvements with all other breeding objectives across governments and institutions," said David Marshall, acting National Program Leader for USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS), who is the U.S. government representative to the WYN.

U.S. signatories to the new initiative include USDA and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Other participants include governmental organizations from Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, China, Argentina, Brazil, Turkey, Germany, India, Mexico, France, Japan and Ireland. The international research organization CGIAR, which includes important international research institutions CIMMYT and ICARDA, is also a participant. To date, Syngenta is the sole industry partner.

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