Wheat is an important part of almost everyone’s diet, rich or poor, making up 20% of the calories consumed by humans worldwide. In many less-developed countries wheat is the main source of calories. Wheat crop losses due to heat and drought affect both food availability and cost for billions of consumers around the world. Because wheat is a staple food for so many, if wheat production falters in one country due to heat or drought, it affects food prices and food security regionally and globally.
HeDWIC capitalizes on decades of research in plant stress as well as the emergence of new technologies to advance the frontier of breeding. For example, wheat researchers have identified biological mechanisms that enable the crop to cool itself under heat stress, root systems that mine deep water under drought, and wild relatives that can withstand very high temperatures. With advancements in high-speed computing, remote sensing, and genomic technologies, we can, for the first time, apply this knowledge to develop new climate-resilient wheat varieties.
With the new wheat varieties that HeDWIC helps develop, wheat farmers and consumers will have more reliable food and income. Farmers will also be better able to cope with a changing climate, reducing risk of catastrophic wheat crop losses. HeDWIC enables a better-coordinated wheat research and development community, while training the next generation of crop experts to tackle new problems as they evolve. Furthermore, HeDWIC provides a research, organizational and capacity building model that can benefit other important food crops
The expanded HeDWIC model is focused around a ‘Translational Research Mega-Platform’ that will facilitate targeted research (Figure 1), and test and deliver new germplasm across a range of realistic environments (Figure 2). The six components of this platform link to create an infrastructure that will enable utilization of transformative technologies and innovative thinking across a range of disciplines, as well as coordinate the efforts of HeDWIC collaborators worldwide and ensure timely delivery of outputs. Human capacity building will be integrated into all of these research, testing and delivery components.
Figure 1. Flow of HeDWIC Trait and Gene Research through the Translational Research Mega-Platform to provide better adapted wheat lines
Figure 2. Mega- environments and testing sites of the International Wheat Improvement Network (IWIN) embrace a global collaboration of wheat scientists testing approximately 1,000 new well-adapted, disease-resistant wheat lines each year at approximately 650 field sites, resulting in massive phenotypic data sets (Braun et al. 2010; Gourdji et al. 2012). To date, IWIN has collected over 11 million raw phenotypic data points and delivered germplasm estimated to be worth annually several billion dollars in extra productivity to hundreds of millions of farmers in less developed countries (Pingali 2012).