NASA Space Experiments Inspire ‘Speed Breeding’ Method That Boosts Wheat Production Threefold

Hunter gatherers traded with Neolithic farmers long before agriculture came to Britain

Scientists from Australia have generated the world’s first “speed breeding” technique to boost the production of wheat three times over.

The team of researchers from the University of Queensland were reportedly inspired by NASA experiments.

The speed breeding experiment was based on using light continuously on wheat to make plants reproduce faster.

“We thought we could use the NASA idea to grow plants quickly back on Earth, and in turn, accelerate the genetic gain in our plant breeding programs,” said Dr. Lee Hickey, a senior research fellow at the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation.

Speed Breeding Technique Can Grow Ample Crops To Feed 9 Billion People By 2050

Dr. Hickey is part of a group of researchers from the School of Agriculture that started to conduct speed breeding procedures to shorten the span of breeding cycles in plants. The scientists had first started the trials over 10 years ago.

The team could generate six generations of barley, wheat, and chickpea as well as four generations of canola plant in just one year with the help of speed breeding procedures in modified glasshouses created specifically for the trials.

Usually, in a year, there is just one generation of produce when the plant grows in fields and two to three generations when the plant grows in a normal glasshouse. Dr. Hickey also added that the trial plants’ yield and quality in extended daylight conditions and controlled climate were better in comparison to those produced in normal greenhouses.

The researcher further said that there is an increasing interest from other industries to know and implement the speed breeding technique. The interest is particularly garnered due to the reason that the technique can help produce 60 to 80 percent more food by 2050, which can feed 9 billion people. Until now, the process was primarily used for research purposes.

DS Faraday Wheat

The research team partnered with Dow AgroSciences to generate a new variety of wheat called DS Faraday, which is going to be released this year. It is a milling wheat, which is high in protein and can tolerate pre-harvest sprouting.

The DS Faraday wheat variety was introduced for grain dormancy to withstand harvest time in wet weather. It is a problem that Australian wheat researchers have been wanting to solve for 40 years.

The speed breeding technique has helped the scientists make a grain dormancy breakthrough. Subsequently, the research team wrote a paper, which was published in the journal Nature Plants.

The study outlined the steps needed for creating speed breeding procedures and adapting normal glasshouse facilities. The technique can be applied to vertical farming systems in the future, according to Dr. Hickey.

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