The initiation of a new technique in crop production, known as ‘speed breeding’, will significantly increase efficiency in the ability to discover new types of crop suitable for certain environments. Researchers from the John Innes Centre at the University of Queensland and the University of Sydney have developed new technology where a greenhouse or artificial environment and enhanced lighting can create day-long regimes and accelerate the search for better crops. Through its research, the team found that is it possible to grow six generations of wheat each year – three times more than what the current shuttle-breeding technique produces.
One of the researchers commented on the importance of the discovery; “Globally, we face a huge challenge in breeding higher yielding and more resilient crops. Being able to cycle through more generations in less time, will allow us to more rapidly create and test genetic combinations and find the best combinations for different environments.”
The need for this industry to address the impacts of climate change has become more and more apparent over recent years, as the improvement of staple crops has dropped and the need to feed growing populations has risen. Researchers from the John Innes Centre say that the controlled environments used in this technique can be scaled up to work in standard greenhouses. The technique on a large scale would use LED lighting to aid photosynthesis for intensive regimes of up to 22 hours per day.
Ruth Bryant, a Wheat Pathologist from the UK said; “Breeders are always looking for ways to speed up the process of getting a variety to market so we are really interested in the concept of speed breeding. We are working closely with Dr Wulff’s group at the John Innes Centre to develop this method in a commercial setting.”