Wheat breeders beat the heat

August 31, 2010 at 11:04 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Wheat mapping population sown in July, exposing plants to extreme temperature from sowing to maturity. Left to right: Dr Francis Ogbonnaya, wheat breeder; Dr Maarten van Ginkel, DDG-Research; and Ms Awatif Farag Alla, PhD student from the University of Khartoum

This year has been unusually hot: of the 123 days from 1 May to 31 August, two-thirds had higher maximum temperature than the long term average. In July, temperatures exceeded 46˚C on some days. In August, maximum temperatures exceeded 40˚C almost every day. Such temperature spikes are expected to become more serious in dry areas as a result of climate change, reducing crop yields and threatening food security.
ICARDA’s wheat breeding program is developing genotypes that can give reasonable yields even in heat-stressed environments. Ms Awatif Farag Alla, from Juba University, Sudan, is researching her PhD on this subject. She is registered with the University of Khartoum, and her ICARDA co-supervisors are Dr Francis Ogbonnaya and Dr Osman Abdalla. She is characterizing heat tolerance using a recombinant inbred mapping population grown in environments prone to extreme temperatures. Experiments are being conducted for the second season, at ICARDA’s Tel Hadya station, and ARC farms in Wad Medani (central Sudan) and Dongola (northern Sudan). Trials are sown at different dates, so that plants experience heat stress at different stages of development . The aim is to identify traits underpinning heat adaptation in a range of production environments and to identify genomic regions associated with such traits. This knowledge will help in the breeding of heat-tolerant wheat varieties to mitigate the impact of climate change on yield and quality.

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  1. Greetings to the ICARDA staff, this is very interesting research.
    I was in Aleppo for a few weeks this year, and in my own work in 2010, I went on to compare diverse cereals, C3 and C4, in trials planted about April 10. Then I saw the results in July. It was clear that barley suffers a lot from the heat and that its adaptation to dry areas comes mostly from osmoresistance, not from heat resistance. Compared to other small grains, triticale has superior heat resistance (transferable to wheat???), and the C4 have amazing heat resistance – they kept growing quite well throughout the hot season. Note, we used very low levels of supplemental irrigation in those trials which were watered twice a week for 2 weeks(possible with help of Safaa Kumari, Nouran Attar, Hala Mustafa and others). Such results led me to believe that the importance of heat stress may become higher than that of osmotic stress in the future, due to climate change. I took very good pictures of that trial. I am encouraging your work on heat, and hope to become in position to collaborate better with you on such matters.


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