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Wheat - DT Wheat India

Molecular breeding and selection strategies to combine and validate quantitative trait loci for improving water-use efficiency and heat tolerance of wheat in India (G7010.02.02)

India is the world’s second largest producer of wheat and Indian wheat production is of critical importance to global food security. Climate change and changing water-use patterns are projected to reduce the amount of water available for irrigated wheat production. It is therefore vitally important that more water-use-efficient (WUE) farming systems and wheat cultivars are identified. Since certain physiological traits – and their QTLs – are associated with genetic gains under drought (eg, in Mexico and Australia), and as the measurement of these traits has been standardised in previous GCP projects and associated research, they can be applied in breeding programmes in India. However, before these QTLs can be accumulated in breeding materials, it is important that the capacity to accurately phenotype WUE and heat stress tolerance is established at key locations in India.

Over the past decade, a number of genetic mapping populations have been developed and assessed under water stress. A number of putative QTLs of variable significance have been identified in a range of different environments. The challenge for wheat breeders is to use this information in a coherent way to improve WUE and heat tolerance in wheat. Indian scientists project that climate change will increase both drought and heat stress across India’s grain-producing areas. While routine crossing and selection has achieved small incremental gains in productivity, these are however insufficient in keeping pace with consumer demand. A new breeding strategy that allows breeders to effectively combine QTLs to improve WUE and heat tolerance is urgently needed.


The overall objective of this project is to develop wheat germplasm adapted to Chinese production environments with greatly enhanced water-use-efficiency. The establishment of effective phenotyping protocols and more efficient breeding schemes will be essential to achieving these outcomes. Specific objectives are:

  1. Implementing standardised drought and heat phenotyping protocols to physiologically evaluate genetic populations and germplasm resources in India.
  2. Using MARS and the outputs of previous QTL studies to improve water-use-efficiency and heat tolerance of wheat in India.

This work also incorporates a pre-existing competitive project, G3008.01: Generating new wheat germplasm with enhanced drought/heat tolerance using AB genomes genetic diversity, led by the Agharkar Research Institute in Pune.

Project partners

Country Partner
Lead institute: Indian Agricultural Research Institute–Indian Council of Agricultural Research (IARI–ICAR)
Partners: Agharkar Research Institute, Pune, Maharashtra–Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ARI–ICAR)
Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya, India (JNKVV)
National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology (NRCPB)
Punjab Agricultural University
Collaborators: Plant Breeding Institute, University of Sydney, Australia
Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics, Pty Ltd (ACPFG)
International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)
Indian Council of Agricultural Research