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The challenge is daunting. Feed 9 billion people in about 30 years with less land and less water.
From left to right, Jon Rich with AgriPro-Syngenta; Marla Barnett with Limagrain Cereal Seeds; Julie Borlaug with the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture; Sid Perry with WestBred-Monsanto; and Janet Lewis with Bayer CropScience, conducted a panel discussion.
Part of that will include new trends in wheat breeding, which has only recently seen a greater investment of research dollars, according to the breeders’ panel moderated by Borlaug.
Wheat is probably the most important food crop in the world, Perry said. It is time for the private breeding industry to reinvest time and energy in the crop.
“What’s happened over the years is that in the U.S., wheat has not been looked upon as a high staple crop like corn and soybeans,” Rich said.
He identified lower costs of molecular markers and the ability to find them more rapidly, allowing “speed breeding” to bring greater yields, as positive things that have driven the investment into cereal grains such as wheat.
“I think it has largely been customer-driven – seedsmen and farmer driven,” Barnett said. “We’ve seen the demand for wheat yields to be increased. Farmers have long been asking, “Why am I still getting the same wheat yields my grandfather got while my corn yields have tripled?”
Perry said the industry has learned a lot of tricks from corn, soybeans, cotton and canola that can be applied to wheat.