A two-year field trial in Mexico’s Sonora desert may help ‘future proof’ wheat, which is responsible for about 20% of calories consumed globally. Researchers studied 149 wheat lines, ranging from widely-used elite lines to those selectively bred to include DNA from wild relatives from Mexico and India. Seeds were sown later in the season to force plants to grow during hotter months. Plants bred with exotic DNA achieved a 50% higher yield over wheat without this DNA. Incorporating the specific genetic differences responsible for the increased heat tolerance could produce wheat crops able to cope with a less predictable climate. “This is science we can now use to make an impact almost immediately,” says Prof. Anthony Hall of the Earlham Institute, which carried out the research with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre.

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