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06 Nov 2020

Improving efficiency of hybrid wheat breeding

As featured in Arable Farming Magazine

Improving efficiency of hybrid wheat breeding

Seed cost remains a challenge

The concept of hybrid wheat has been around for many decades and countless programmes have been initiated and shut down, says Jacob Lage, head of hybrid wheat and pre-breeding at KWS UK.

Many companies are now refocusing on hybrid wheat, believing the tools and genetic knowledge developed over the past 10-15 years puts us in a position to make hybrid wheat a success.

Its already possible to produce hybrid wheat, using a chemical to sterilise the female plants or employing a cytoplasmatic male sterility system, but neither methods work as smoothly and efficiently as wed like.

This BBSRC and industry supported project looks at some of the essential elements needed to develop a more efficient system.

Although the research is not expected to deliver a final hybrid system, it will help us understand pollen development much better. Hybridisation, however, is not the only bottleneck to address, says Dr Lage.

If were to successfully commercialise hybrid wheat, we must do so at a competitive seed price.

Were confident wheat growers will benefit from increased production and stability, but the extra seed cost must not exceed the expected gain in the field.


One challenge for hybrid seed production is that wheat is predominantly self-pollinated with limited pollen being spread to other plants.

Prof Wilsons project should help develop male lines which shed large amounts which can be carried by wind to nearby sterile female plants.

System development and better pollen production are topics of interest to most breeding companies, so it was an easy decision to join forces with several of our competitors to support the work.

We all actively contribute to the project and it has been great to see how it has progressed, he adds.

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