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Global food production must be increased 60% by 2050 to feed 9.5 billion people (Parry and Hawkesford, 2010). Wheat is one of the world's major food crops providing 20-22% of the calories consumed and supplies 9.37% of the world's food requirements. Oat is another important food crop and is the only cereal food certified by FDA as "healthy food" due to its effect on reducing different human health issues and improving health conditions. Both food crops are important to reduce food shortage and improve health and nutritional conditions for humans. Global climate change, particularly increased temperature and unpredictable rainfall, is becoming a major threat for world food security. The genetic gain for yield will be a major pathway for producing enough food to meet demands. However, genetic gain is less than expected for all major food crops, including wheat and oat. To meet global food demand in 2050, a 2% per year genetic gain for wheat yield is needed. Since 1983, the yearly genetic gain for wheat yield was 1.3%. In 2007, average wheat yield was 42 bu/ac, while world production needs to be 56 bu/ac by 2025 to meet food demand. Moreover, average wheat yield needs to be 75 bu/ac by 2050 to cope with ever increasing global population. In all these statistics, yield of wheat is lower than expected. The southeastern United States have significant small grain production that support regional food and feed industries. These areas experience moderate temperate and can support several tropical and semi-tropical food crop species. Plant breeding has produced varieties that are able to tolerate the heat and drought stress typical of southeastern environments. Major food crops, such as wheat (Triticum aestivum), oats (Avena sativa), corn (Zea mays), and rice (Oryza sativa) grow well in combination with soils and climate of this region. Major food crops like wheat with low vernalization and FDA certified healthy food crop like oat are well adapted to these environments. Developing new small grain varieties with improved disease and insect resistances will allow them to be more productive in these areas. Since severe winters are not common and plants persist through the occasional hard freezes. Small grain food crops work well in the southeast as winter and rotation crops with soybean, peanut, cotton and corn. In addition, the higher food prices also make these small grains attractive to growers. Plant breeding is needed to develop varieties that can withstand variable temperatures and drought stresses, particularly high temperature and drought during the reproductive part of the growing season including high nighttime temperature. The small grain food crops which grow in these areas are also susceptible to leaf rust, stripe rust, crown rust, barley yellow dwarf, Fusarium head blight, and Hessian fly infestation. New or improved wheat and oat germplasms are needed that will grow successfully in the face of these diseases and will benefit food crop systems throughout the Southeastern USA and will have significant impact on the food crops industry in the USA.Overall goals:?Breed annual small grains food crops (wheat and oat) suited to the Southeastern United States and Peninsular Florida under high temperature and variable moisture conditions. Improvement of important agronomic traits, such as yield, harvest index, grain number, resistance to diseases and insects, and nutritional quality will be made through traditional and molecular methods of genetic manipulation. The project will utilize the hot and humid environment of Florida for targeting genomic loci associated with high temperature and drought tolerance and intend to use that information to develop germplasm for other sub-tropical regions of the world. Specific research objectives include:1. Develop wheat germplasm (soft-red and hard-red) with improved disease and insect resistance and grain quality traits for growers in Southeastern United States and Peninsular Florida.2. Identify sources of high temperature stress tolerance in wheat and develop germplasm for sub-tropical environments using different physiological tools and high throughput phenotyping.3. Identify novel traits and genomic loci to improve harvest index in wheat under heat and drought conditions. 4. Acquire and evaluate tropical wheat and oat germplasm for different disease and insects and find genes resistant against pathogens and insects.

Babar, Md, Al.; Blount, An, .
University of Florida
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