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A new strain of wheat that could see crop yields increased by 30 percent is developed in Cambridge

new-wheatThe National Institute of Agricultural Botany is just around the corner from me in Cambridge.  I mean that almost literally, in that if I turn right onto Bridge Street and walk awhile, I’ll come to their buildings.  It is with some Cambridge pride that I learned of their announcement of a new type of wheat that could help to feed the world in the future.  Wheat already provides 20 percent of the world’s calories (and rice provides another 20 percent).  The Green Revolution saw increasing yields as new strains, better management and fertilizers took effect, but the increase has slowed.  Future increase will use genetic engineering to increase the acreage on which wheat can be grown, plus the yield from each plant.

The Cambridge development was not achieved by genetic modification, as the Institute carefully points out, no doubt to prevent environmentalist thugs from smashing their labs and trampling their crops.  Instead the scientists used cross pollination and seed embryo transfer to incorporate some of the qualities of goat grass, an early ancestor of wheat, into modern varieties.  Goat grass is one of the varieties of primitive grasses that evolved into modern wheat about 10,000 years ago when our ancestors took up farming.  The researchers were looking to add greater resilience and disease resistance, but found that one strain achieved a 30 percent increase in yield.  There is much testing and regulatory approval to be done, but after that, bigger harvests lie down the road.  It is this sort of imaginative progress that gives to lie to the doom-mongers who tell us that the world will starve.  Well done Cambridge!

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