Recognising the importance of wheat, in 2013 we developed a five-year wheat strategy under the chairmanship of Sir David Baulcombe.
The strategy highlighted the importance of consolidating and building upon both BBSRC's and the UK's track record in wheat research, and noted that BBSRC has a major international leadership role to play.
In 2015 a BBSRC Council Wheat Sub-group was set up to discuss the strategic role we should play in UK wheat research. The group was chaired by Professor Helen Sang and also included Sir David Baulcombe to provide continuity from the strategy development work. On the back of this work BBSRC Council endorsed a vision for wheat research and a series of recommendations to maintain the strategic wheat research in the UK.
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Through BBSRC investments the UK will be a world leader in the research necessary to underpin sustainable wheat production:
- meeting needs of a sustainable food supply chain
- building on strengths in genomics, agronomy and crop husbandry
- exploring traits which improve the efficiency and effectiveness of inputs
- focussing on traits which generate high quality grain for both humans and animal feed
- developing novel crop protection solutions - including enhancing innate resistance
- using the latest tools and technologies, combined with precision engineering
- maintaining UK capacity and capability in wheat and cereal research
- generating new knowledge, new ‘tools’ for breeders and well characterised germplasm which facilitates new traits/wheat varieties of the future
- increasing the overall societal and economic value of the wheat crop to the UK and internationally.
By the next five years
- An integrative programme of wheat research from discovery to application driving sustainable production in an innovative and transformative way
- Focus on developing underpinning research on a range of traits - supporting the future needs of the consumer and commercial interests
- Exploiting a genome scale understanding of wheat, including developing new tools to aid utilisation of genome sequences by the wider community of academic and industry interests, and linking to international partnerships
- Focus on sustainable yield by understanding the basic biology and agronomy which will make wheat robust, efficient and resilient to biotic and abiotic stresses
- Underpinning research in transformational technologies such as hybrid wheat and better control of recombination
- Providing key national/ international capabilities to support the above in an efficient, effective way.
By the next 10 years
- Developing a systems-level understanding of wheat biology and be able to predict which genes are required for which traits (that is genotype to phenotype)
- Improved plant architecture resulting in increased wheat efficiency and resilience
- Ensuring the UK is at the leading edge of research into the consumer-focussed sustainable supply of wheat, including nutritional quality for consumers
- The full genomic and phenomic characterisation of seed collections, and contribution to development of international standards and ontologies, as part of international initiatives.