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Genetic and management approaches to boost UK wheat yields by ameliorating water deficits

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorial


Journal publication date11/2011
JournalJournal of Experimental Botany
Number of pages8
Original languageEnglish


Faced with the challenge of increasing global food production, there is the need to exploit all approaches to increasing crop yields. A major obstacle to boosting yields of wheat (an important staple in many parts of the world) is the availability and efficient use of water, since there is increasing stress on water resources used for agriculture globally, and also in parts of the UK. Improved soil and crop management and the development of new genotypes may increase wheat yields when water is limiting. Technical and scientific issues concerning management options such as irrigation and the use of growth-promoting rhizobacteria are explored, since these may allow the more efficient use of irrigation. Fundamental understanding of how crops sense and respond to multiple abiotic stresses can help improve the effective use of irrigation water. Experiments are needed to test the hypothesis that modifying wheat root system architecture (by increasing root proliferation deep in the soil profile) will allow greater soil water extraction thereby benefiting productivity and yield stability. Furthermore, better knowledge of plant and soil interactions and how below-ground and above-ground processes communicate within the plant can help identify traits and ultimately genes (or alleles) that will define genotypes that yield better under dry conditions. Developing new genotypes will take time and, therefore, these challenges need to be addressed now.