K-State researchers get $1M to improve wheat diversity

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas State University wheat geneticist will get nearly $1 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for research designed to improve the genetic diversity of wheat.

The Hutchinson News reports the research will focus on studying and cultivating a genetic species of wheat that can withstand drought, heat and viruses. Wheat geneticist and professor of plant pathology Jesse Poland is part of two grants that focus on bringing wild native plants together with wheat to create better seed.

“The wheat genome is quite adaptable,” said Poland, director of the Wheat Genetics Resource Center Industry-University Cooperative Research Center at K-State. “We hope to find stress tolerance and disease resistance in these wild relatives.”

K-State plant pathology researchers Bernd Friebe and Dal-Hoe Koo and all of the Wheat Genetics Resource Center are involved in the research.

Poland estimates that each project might take from six years to more than 10 years. The wheat specimens would then go to breeders and eventually to farmers.