New breeding technologies such as gene editing genuinely have the potential to underpin the next agricultural revolution. Quicker, more accurate selection of desired genetic traits in plant breeding offers the promise of a step-change increase in agricultural productivity, more durable pest and disease resistance, improved nutrition and resilience to climate change.
As a plant science organisation with a strong focus on genetic innovation, NIAB is committed to gene editing as a strategic tool in future wheat breeding programmes. This is despite the recent ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) that gene-edited crops should be regulated as GMOs.
NIAB research has shown that genetic innovation (in the form of new crop varieties) accounts for around 90% of yield gain over time in our major arable crops. No amount of investment in robotics, artificial intelligence, satellite and digital technologies can increase a crop’s basic genetic potential. In contrast, gene editing is the latest tool in our wheat breeding research which offer step-change increases in yield.
NIAB has recently published its latest findings showing that efficient gene editing in wheat is now possible with similar efficiencies of wheat transformation alone (BMC Plant Biology journal: Efficient generation of stable, heritable gene edits in wheat using CRISPR/Cas9).