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J Exp Bot. 2009;60(10):2791-804. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erp164. Epub 2009 Jun 1.

Identifying target traits and molecular mechanisms for wheat breeding under a changing climate.

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Department of Biomathematics and Bioinformatics, Rothamsted Research, Centre for Mathematical and Computational Biology, Harpenden, Herts AL5 2JQ, UK.


Global warming is causing changes in temperature at a rate unmatched by any temperature change over the last 50 million years. Crop cultivars have been selected for optimal performance under the current climatic conditions. With global warming, characterized by shifts in weather patterns and increases in frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events, new ideotypes will be required with a different set of physiological traits. Severe pressure has been placed on breeders to produce new crop cultivars for a future, rapidly-changing environment that can only be predicted with a great degree of uncertainty and is not available in the present day for direct experiments or field trials. Mathematical modelling, therefore, in conjunction with crop genetics, represents a powerful tool to assist in the breeding process. In this review, drought and high temperature are considered as key stress factors with a high potential impact on crop yield that are associated with global warming, focusing on their effects on wheat. Modelling techniques are described which can help to quantify future threats to wheat growth under climate change and simple component traits that are amenable to genetic analysis are identified. This approach could be used to support breeding programmes for new wheat cultivars suitable for future environments brought about by the changing climate.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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