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Safeguarding a Crop to Feed the Future

Researchers Work With Wheat to Increase Disease, Pest Resistance

By Maryland Today Staff

Thousands of years of wheat cultivation have created a bountiful crop that today provides about one-fifth of the calories consumed by the world’s population, but the process that led to desirable traits like large grains and yields have also suppressed genetic diversity. As a result, wheat—and the global food supply itself—is increasingly vulnerable to climate changes, pests and diseases.

University of Maryland researchers are leading the way in producing more resilient forms of wheat. Vijay Tiwari, an assistant professor of plant science and landscape architecture, researches new methods to breed pathogen and pest resistance from ancient forms of wheat into the modern strains we rely on today. His colleague Nidhi Rawat, an associate professor of plant science and landscape architecture, is probing the genetic mechanism of plants that are resistant to fungal pathogens like Fusarium graminearum, which causes wheat scab, a major global crop disease. 

In the latest installment of “Enterprise: University of Maryland Research Stories,” the researchers and their students examine UMD test fields show at harvest time to show how they’re applying solutions to the pressing issue of ensuring a continued, safe food supply for the planet’s growing populations.



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