The future of wheat is the focus for a state-of-the-art meeting by the Wheat Genetic Improvement Network (WGIN), alongside current trends and developments

  • 02
  • NOV
  • 2017

Wheat innovators come together again this month to share news of their latest research and developments and to stimulate more new areas of investigation that will attract funders, breeders and the wider wheat industry for the benefit of farmers in the UK.

The Wheat Genetic Improvement Network (WGIN), Europe’s longest running research network of any sort, will stage its 15th annual stakeholders’ meeting at Rothamsted Research on 30th November. The meeting will also introduce a new five-year programme, Designing Future Wheat. Attendance at the day-long event is free upon registration.

WGIN, funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), was founded in 2003 by Peter Shewry and Kim Hammond-Kosack, two cereals specialists at Rothamsted, and by John Snape, a cereals specialist at the John Innes Centre (JIC).

WGIN is led by Rothamsted and continues to embrace a diverse range of academic scientists, industry-based breeders, researchers, development specialists and agricultural advisers as its stakeholders.

“While industry breeding programmes tend to focus on introducing new crop varieties with greater yields and improved quality, WGIN focuses on new traits with characteristics that should improve crop resilience and sustainability,” says Hammond-Kosack.

“We explore such factors as improved responses to abiotic and biotic stress, efficiencies in the use of nutrients and canopy architecture,” she adds.

Also, WGIN provides a research platform for the delivery of tools, resources, bioinformatics information and expertise for the identification of naturally occurring genetic variation in new traits.”

WGIN diversity trial at Rothamsted - Credit: Rothamsted ResearchIn an annual WGIN diversity trial at Rothamsted, 96 larger plots explore efficiencies in the use of nutrients by 24 randomly-distributed wheat varieties under four nitrogen regimes (0, 100, 200 and 350 kilograms of nitrogen per hectare); triplication of plots ensures statistical viability, making 288 larger plots in total. Alongside, there are 202 smaller plots of randomly-distributed, doubled haploid Avalon x Cadenza lines, also triplicated for statistical viability, plus 18 smaller plots of triplicated parental lines, all growing under 200 kgN/ha. Grain samples from every harvest are stored and made available for researchers inside and outside the network

After a welcome from Shewry, chair of the WGIN Stakeholders’ Forum, Hammond-Kosack’s introduction to WGIN will be followed by a series of presentations ranging from the value of drones and coping with drought in the UK to wheat without aphids and the WGIN Big Data Experiment.

The morning session will conclude with a whistle-stop tour of the global wheat market from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

Afternoon presentations will focus on Designing Future Wheat (DFW), a new five-year programme to 2022 that is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). Ten presentations will cover breeding, genetics, architecture, weather-proofing, quality and Septoria disease.

More than 25 groups of scientists are involved in the DFW programme across Rothamsted, JIC and Earlham Institute (EI), with additional contributions from the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB), the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI), the Quadram Institute and the Universities of Bristol and Nottingham.

The day will end with a Q&A session on the DFW programme and on WGIN in general, followed by another break for refreshments and informal discussions among delegates. The meeting will close at 5.30pm.

Rothamsted Research is strategically funded by the BBSRC.

About Rothamsted Research
Rothamsted Research is the longest-running agricultural research institute in the world. We work from gene to field with a proud history of ground-breaking discoveries, from crop treatment to crop protection, from statistical interpretation to soils management. Our founders, in 1843, were the pioneers of modern agriculture, and we are known for our imaginative science and our collaborative influence on fresh thinking and farming practices.
Through independent science and innovation, we make significant contributions to improving agri-food systems in the UK and internationally. In terms of the institute’s economic contribution, the cumulative impact of our work in the UK was calculated to exceed £3000 million a year in 20151. Our strength lies in our systems approach, which combines science and strategic research, interdisciplinary teams and partnerships.
Rothamsted is also home to three unique resources. These National Capabilities are open to researchers from all over the world: The Long-Term Experiments, Rothamsted Insect Survey and the North Wyke Farm Platform.
We are strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), with additional support from other national and international funding streams, and from industry. We are also supported by the Lawes Agricultural Trust (LAT).
For more information, visit; Twitter @Rothamsted
1Rothamsted Research and the Value of Excellence: A synthesis of the available evidence, by Séan Rickard (Oct 2015)

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.
BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.
Funded by government, BBSRC invested £469 million in world-class bioscience in 2016-17. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.
More information about BBSRC, our science and our impact.
More information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes

About LAT
The Lawes Agricultural Trust, established in 1889 by Sir John Bennet Lawes, supports Rothamsted Research’s national and international agricultural science through the provision of land, facilities and funding. LAT, a charitable trust, owns the estates at Harpenden and Broom's Barn, including many of the buildings used by Rothamsted Research. LAT provides an annual research grant to the Director, accommodation for nearly 200 people, and support for fellowships for young scientists from developing countries. LAT also makes capital grants to help modernise facilities at Rothamsted, or invests in new buildings.