Nav: Home

Wheat myth debunked

June 17, 2019

The myth that modern wheat varieties are more heavily reliant on pesticides and fertilisers is debunked by new research published in Nature Plants today.

Lead author on the paper, Dr Kai Voss-Fels, a research fellow at The University of Queensland, said modern wheat cropping varieties actually out-perform older varieties in both optimum and harsh growing conditions.

"There is a view that intensive selection and breeding which has produced the high-yielding wheat cultivars used in modern cropping systems has also made modern wheat less resilient and more dependent on chemicals to thrive," said Dr Voss-Fels.

"However, the data unequivocally shows that modern wheat varieties out-perform older varieties, even under conditions of reduced amounts of fertilisers, fungicides and water," he said.

"We also found that genetic diversity within the often-criticised modern wheat gene pool is rich enough to generate a further 23 per cent increase in yields."

Dr Voss-Fels said the findings might surprise some farmers and environmentalists.

"Quite a few people will be taken aback by just how tough modern wheat varieties proved to be, even in harsh growing conditions, such as drought, and using less chemical inputs."

Dr Voss-Fels said the findings could have potentially important implications for raising the productivity of organic cropping systems. "It's been widely assumed that the older wheat cultivars are more robust and resilient but it's actually the modern cultivars that perform best in optimum and sub-optimum conditions."

Wheat is the world's most important food crop.

However, with global wheat yields reduced due to droughts in recent years and more climate risk anticipated in the future, the hardiness of modern wheat varieties is an issue of global significance.

The study is believed to provide the most detailed description of the consequences of intensive breeding and genetic selection for high grain yield and associated traits in European wheat over the past 50 years.

It was led by Professor Rod Snowdon of the Justus-Liebig-University Gießen (JLU), who is also an honorary Professor at UQ, in collaboration with seven other German universities.

The genetic analysis was undertaken at QAAFI under the leadership of Professor Ben Hayes.

The first part of the study involved testing 200 wheat varieties that have been essential to agriculture in Western Europe in the past 50 years.

Performance was compared between those varieties in side-by-side field trials under high, medium and low chemical input conditions. The second part of the study was undertaken at QAAFI, to match the performance differences with the different varieties' genetic make-up.

"This genetic information allows us to take the discovery to the next level," Dr Voss-Fels says.

"We can use artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to predict the optimal crosses needed to bring together the most favourable segments as fast as possible."
-end-
The paper 'Breeding improves wheat productivity under contrasting agrochemical input levels' was published in Nature Plants 17 June 2019 (DOI: 10.1038/s41477-019-0445-5).

For more information:

Dr Kai Voss-Fels | k.vossfels@uq.edu.au | +61 7 334 62288

Professor Ben Hayes | b.hayes@uq.edu.au | + 61 7 334 62173

Media: Margaret Puls | m.puls@uq.edu.au | 0419 578 356

Corresponding Author:

Rod Snowdon

Justus Liebig University, Giessen, Germany

Email: rod.snowdon@agrar.uni-giessen.de

University of Queensland

Related Pesticides Articles:

Pesticides increase the risk of schistosomiasis, a tropical disease
Schistosomiasis is a severe infectious disease caused by parasitic worms.
Wasps' gut microbes help them -- and their offspring -- survive pesticides
Exposure to the widely used pesticide atrazine leads to heritable changes in the gut microbiome of wasps, finds a study publishing Feb.
A proposal to change environmental risk assessment for pesticides
Despite regulatory frameworks designed to prevent environmental damage, pesticide use is still linked to declines in insects, birds and aquatic species, an outcome that raises questions about the efficacy of current regulatory procedures.
SDHI pesticides are toxic for human cells
French scientists led by a CNRS researcher have just revealed that eight succinate dehydrogenase inhibitor pesticide molecules do not just inhibit the SDH activity of fungi, but can also block that of earthworms, bees, and human cells in varying proportions.
Pesticides deliver a one-two punch to honey bees
A new paper in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry reveals that adjuvants, chemicals commonly added to pesticides, amplify toxicity affecting mortality rates, flight intensity, colony intensity, and pupae development in honey bees.
Hypertension found in children exposed to flower pesticides
Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine found higher blood pressure and pesticide exposures in children associated with a heightened pesticide spraying period around the Mother's Day flower harvest.
Banned pesticides in Europe's rivers
Tests of Europe's rivers and canals have revealed more than 100 pesticides -- including 24 that are not licensed for use in the EU.
The persistence of pesticides threatens European soils
A study developed by researchers from the Diverfarming project finds pesticide residues in the soils of eleven European countries in six different cropping systems
Honeybees at risk from Zika pesticides
Up to 13 percent of US beekeepers are in danger of losing their colonies due to pesticides sprayed to contain the Zika virus, new research suggests.
Alternatives to pesticides -- Researchers suggest popular weeds
Research proves that extracts from S. nigrum and D. stramonium, globally existing weed species, may help to protect crop systems against agricultural pests.
More Pesticides News and Pesticides Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans 2.0
More than test scores or good grades–what do kids need for the future? This hour, TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, both during and after this time of crisis. Guests include educators Richard Culatta and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#556 The Power of Friendship
It's 2020 and times are tough. Maybe some of us are learning about social distancing the hard way. Maybe we just are all a little anxious. No matter what, we could probably use a friend. But what is a friend, exactly? And why do we need them so much? This week host Bethany Brookshire speaks with Lydia Denworth, author of the new book "Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond". This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Space
One of the most consistent questions we get at the show is from parents who want to know which episodes are kid-friendly and which aren't. So today, we're releasing a separate feed, Radiolab for Kids. To kick it off, we're rerunning an all-time favorite episode: Space. In the 60's, space exploration was an American obsession. This hour, we chart the path from romance to increasing cynicism. We begin with Ann Druyan, widow of Carl Sagan, with a story about the Voyager expedition, true love, and a golden record that travels through space. And astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson explains the Coepernican Principle, and just how insignificant we are. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.