“We will then employ a systems biology approach involving state-of-the-art science using high throughput RNA sequencing, proteomic, metabolomic and hormonomic technologies to elucidate the drought tolerance mechanisms of the above mentioned varieties at molecular and whole-plant levels,” Krishna Reddy said.

“We expect to identify the key genetic regulators of drought tolerance and their biochemical pathways and interactions at multiple levels,” Liu said.

“That will enable us to design more effective molecular markers to be used in screening breeding populations for wheat improvement.”

The results will be validated under field conditions with a wide range of wheat genotypes. Then wheat breeders can apply the molecular tools to screen for and target drought-tolerance genes in various breeding programs, he said.

Rudd said the knowledge generated will help to accelerate variety development in the U.S. and in other similar environments throughout the world, and ultimately result in the release of drought-stress tolerant and high-yielding wheat varieties that benefit producers.

“Improved genetics cannot replace timely rains, but we have made significant improvements in drought tolerance through traditional plant breeding and further improvements are likely in the future,” Rudd said. “Preliminary projects supported by the Texas Wheat Producers and the federally-funded Ogallala Aquifer Program have given us valuable insight into our past accomplishments and a clear direction for future research.”