It’s not natural Our Daily Bread 11

Wheat has a hugely diverse genetic background, being made up of three different species, and genetic diversity is what allows breeders to find the traits they need to produce wheats that can cope with changing conditions. But because the accidents that created wheat might have happened just the once, plenty of diversity that is missing from modern wheats is still in wheat’s ancestors. Trouble is, crossing a wild wheat with a modern wheat is almost impossible. Solution: remake modern wheat.

Photo shows a commercial variety, wilted and collapsing, while behind it a synthetic derivative copes just fine with the drought. By Maarten van Ginkel, who headed the Bread Wheat Program at CIMMYT. Thanks Maarten.


  1. Yes common (hexaploid) bread wheat will do it in some cases, though the offspring are almost always sterile. Goatgrass is a common and problematic weed that grows intimately mixed up in the wheat, which lends itself to hybridization even the wheat is otherwise self-pollinating.


  • 💬 Wheat Initiative

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