Project: Identification and sustainable deployment of wheat genetic diversity to enhance the resilience and security of the European food supply.

Acronym WheatSecurity (Reference Number: 39)
Duration 01/02/2023 - 31/01/2026
Project Topic Wheat is an essential source of human calories and also provides substantial amounts of proteins, vitamins, fibre and phytochemicals. Much of the wheat grown globally is derived from a narrow genetic base, relative to the genetic resources available within germplasm repositories. Considering climate and legislative challenges, loss of biodiversity, geo-political conflicts, shifting diets and population trends, we need to rethink European wheat production practices and harness wheat’s underutilised genetic diversity to deliver sustainable food supplies into the future. The EU Green Deal challenges farmers to significantly reduce chemical crop inputs by 2030, but will also unlock the opportunity to better maintain and exploit ecosystem biodiversity to support sustainable crop production. By enhancing our understanding of the functional significance of wheat genetic diversity at the ecosystem level, including an in-depth assessment of the complex interplay between wheat and its host ecosystems, we can build new ideotypes that will enhance the resilience of the primary crop production system within the EU. The actions of WheatSecurity will underpin yield stability, mitigating the risk of yield loss from biotic/abiotic stress, exacerbated in many cases due to climate change. To achieve this, WheatSecurity will harness genetic resources and agrobiodiversity in order to increase the resilience and sustainability of wheat production in biogeographically and climatically diverse zones across the EU. Building on the wealth of information available regarding the genetic diversity and performance of bread and durum wheat plus related germplasm, we will capitalise on ongoing national and international initiative to select a germplasm panel representing a broad genetic pool covering agroclimatic adaptation and including tetraploid, hexaploid, diverse and elite genotypes. We will cultivate this diverse germplasm panel in sites across Europe under sustainable cultivation conditions (reduced nitrogen, biostimulants, etc.), and we will assess agronomic performance, quality, abiotic and biotic stress resistance/tolerance, as well as interaction with microbial ecosystem components. Based on both demonstrator field trials and contained environment studies, the resilience of diverse wheat germplasm to environmental conditions and to multiple stress responses, alone and in combination, will be assessed and demonstrated to end-users (farmers, breeders, processors, policy makers) based on a combination of traditional and high throughput phenotyping, genome-wide association studies, transcriptomics, and DNA-based microbiome studies of roots, leaves and flowering wheat heads. Grain nutritional quality and industrial processing quality will be assessed. Network and association studies will be used to decipher the linkages between plant performance and genotype x environment x management interactions, and we will test the hypothesis that it is possible to support crop-health through genotype x microbiome interactions. These studies will enhance our understanding of the resilience of genotypes and haplotypes, and guide the development of ideotypes adapted to specific environmental niches. This project will increase the reference database of phenotypes and functional genotypes for accessions under stressed environments, delineating progenitors that can be used to maximise biodiversity and multi-environment, multi-stress resilience. This research will also demonstrate how we can rapidly expedite the development of cultivars imbued with morpho-physiological features that meet the EU Green Deal ecological objectives (i.e. more resilient under low input and biological input cultivation). Thus, WheatSecurity will improve our understanding of ecosystem functions and enhance our ability to increase the functional genetic diversity base of wheat, thereby enhancing the sustainability of Europe’s food production systems.
Website visit project website
Network SusCrop
Call 3rd Transnational Joint Call on Sustainable Crop Production with FACCE JPI

Project partner

Number Name Role Country
1 University College Dublin Coordinator Ireland
2 BIOGER INRAE Partner France
3 Council for Agricultural Research and Economics Partner Italy
4 GDEC INRAE Partner France
5 Alma Mater Studiorum - Universita' di Bologna Partner Italy
6 Universitat de Barcelona Partner Spain
7 Universidad de Cordoba Partner Spain
8 The James Hutton Institute Partner United Kingdom
9 Teagasc Partner Ireland
10 University of Copenhagen Partner Denmark
11 CropBiome Limited Partner Ireland
12 KWS Momont Partner France
13 SECOBRA Recherches Partner France
14 UE PHACC INRAE Partner France