Space age plant breeding lights the way for future crops

NASA experiments to grow wheat in space were the inspiration for University of Queensland scientists to develop the world’s first ‘speed breeding’ procedures here on planet Earth.

UQ Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) Senior Research Fellow Dr Lee Hickey said the NASA experiments involved using continuous light on wheat which triggered early reproduction in the plants.

“We thought we could use the NASA idea to grow plants quickly back on Earth, and in turn, accelerate the genetic gain in our plant breeding programs,” Dr Hickey said.

Dr Hickey was part of the team from the UQ School of Agriculture that began trialling speed breeding techniques to cut the length of plant breeding cycles more than 10 years ago.

“By using speed breeding techniques in specially modified glasshouses we can grow six generations of wheat, chickpea and barley plants, and four generations of canola plants in a single year – as opposed to two or three generations in a regular glasshouse, or a single generation in the field,” Dr Hickey said.

Read more at The University of Queensland

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