1. Wheat is Essential to Global Food and Nutritional Security
Wheat is the most widely grown of any crop globally (230m+ ha) and accounts for:
- 21% food calories
- 20% protein
2. Significant Increase in Cereal Production is Necessary to Feed 9+ bn People by 2050
The International Wheat Yield Partnership
It is estimated that by 2050 there will be over 9 billion people on earth. The systems and material to feed this number of people are not in place today, and potentially won’t be then, even allowing for the annual increases in agricultural production realized today. Given the lengthy time necessary for research, development, evaluation and deployment of substantially improved crops, the time to start the research is now. This is the only position that is prudent to ensure that all means of sustaining global food security and nutrition will be available in the coming decades.
Globally, wheat is the most important food staple crop providing 20% of daily calories and protein. In November 2012, funding agencies and organisations from the G20 countries agreed to work together and formed the global Wheat Initiative to develop a strategic approach to supporting research that would lead to increasing the productivity of wheat. An essential pillar of this strategy is to dramatically increase the genetic yield potential of wheat and this being targeted by a novel collaborative approach, the International Wheat Yield Partnership (IWYP). IWYP builds on the initial research concepts of the Wheat Yield Consortium established by CIMMYT.
IWYP represents a new and uniquely coordinated approach to address the challenge of raising the genetic wheat yield potential of wheat by up to 50% in the next two decades. By 2050 wheat demand is expected to increase by 60%. To meet this demand, annual potential wheat yield increases must effectively double.
The IWYP goal of increasing the genetic yield potential of wheat by up to 50% is exceptionally challenging. It requires a strategic and collaborative approach to enable the best scientific teams from across the globe to work together in an integrated program. Whilst there are a number of large global and national programs, most are focused on combatting stresses and diseases, thereby protecting current yields, but few are focused on increasing the wheat yield potential per se. The outputs will provide new genetic resources to allow wheat breeders throughout the world to draw on this new ‘raw material’ to produce higher yielding varieties adapted to local conditions.
Importantly, recent developments in scientific methodologies and new technologies have led to an unprecedented increase in our understanding of many aspects of plant science. When combined with the urgent need to increase wheat yields, it is now timely to address the challenge of increasing wheat yields by developing an integrated program focused on the genetics underpinning yield potential traits.