Based at Cornell, the Delivering Genetic Gain in Wheat (DGGW) initiative will use comparative genomics and big data to identify and mitigate risks to wheat caused by climate change while deploying new strains that are heat tolerant and resistant to rusts and other diseases.
The four-year grant builds on the successes of the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI), which was led by the Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat project and funded by the United Kingdom's Department for International Development and the Gates Foundation from 2008 to 2016. BGRI scientists have developed collaborative arrangements and facilities to screen thousands of samples of wheat each year to identify resistant lines, preventing the global epidemics of Ug99 stem rust that were predicted in 2005.
"The challenge for global agriculture is to grow more food on less land, using less water, fertilizer, and pesticides," said Hans Braun, director of the Global Wheat Program at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center. "Sustainable cropping systems that are economically viable, socially acceptable, and respectful of the environment are critical to ensure global food security....Wheat provides 20 percent of all calories and 20 percent of all protein in developing and developed countries, is the stuff of life for twenty-five million wheat-consuming men, women, and children who live on less than $2 per day, and provides vital income for approximately twenty million poor wheat producers and their families."