U.K. Wheat Yields May Jump 30% on 10,000-Year-Old Variety

A 10,000-year-old variety of wheat that’s bred with a species of grass may help boost grain yields in the U.K. by as much as 30 percent, the National Institute of Agricultural Botany said.

Scientists at the Cambridge-based institute recreated the variety that’s a cross between an ancient type of wheat and wild grass, according to a statement on NIAB’s website today. When bred with modern-day plants, the strain may make crops with higher yields that are more tolerant to drought or diseases. The U.K.’s national wheat yield has been about 8 metric tons per hectare (2.47 acres) for the past 12 years, according to the report.

“Yield increases of up to 30 percent have been produced in early field trials, despite the past few years being cold, wet seasons where lack of sunlight depressed yield,” Phil Howell, a senior plant breeder at NIAB, said in the statement. The initial finding “points to a major transformation in the wheat improvement process.”

New varieties based on the findings may not be available to farmers until at least 2019, NIAB said.

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