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As climate change looms, climate-resilient wheat varieties bloom

The realities of climate change are usually daunting to think about and exhausting to truly comprehend. From increased severe weather patterns to decreased water supply and acidic oceans, it’s tough to keep track of every negative associated with the changing climate. So here’s one more to add to the list: significantly smaller crop yields from our food supply. Climate change will likely bring on more droughts and leave many of our crops starving for water. Therefore, it is important that scientists work to develop climate-resilient crops that can withstand these poor conditions – especially for our major crops.

The current and future increases in climate variability have researchers searching for resilient wheat varieties that can still produce high yields in non-ideal soil and weather. The market for healthier foods is also growing, creating an expanded demand for nutritionally-improved wheat varieties as well.

A recently published paper in the journal Crop Science analyzes the connections between wheat plants and a type of carbohydrates called fructans. Fructans are found in a number of plants, and play important physiological roles in both plants and humans.

In plants, fructans increase tolerance for environmental stresses such as drought, cold temperatures, and salinity – all of which are associated with climate change. Furthermore, consumption of fructans by humans is believed to improve gut health.

Despite their importance, the utility of fructans as a breeding target for different wheat varieties has yet to be examined. This new study draws upon the current state of knowledge about fructans in wheat and their connection to human health, leading to a suggestion of potential breeding methodologies and goals for the future.

Moving forward, the push to breed wheat for increased fructans will help develop more climate-resilient varieties that will also have increased nutritional value, a win-win for anyone who wants good food and more of it.

By Connor Ertz, Staff Writer

Source: American Society of Agronomy

Image Credit: Mark Sorrells

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