Climate change impacts on crop breeding: Targeting interacting biotic and abiotic stresses for wheat improvement
Wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) as a staple crop is closely interwoven into the development of modern society. Its influence on culture and economic development is global. Recent instability in wheat markets has demonstrated its importance in guaranteeing food security across national borders. Climate change threatens food security as it interacts with a multitude of factors impacting wheat production. The challenge needs to be addressed with a multidisciplinary perspective delivered across research, private, and government sectors. Many experimental studies have identified the major biotic and abiotic stresses impacting wheat production, but fewer have addressed the combinations of stresses that occur simultaneously or sequentially during the wheat growth cycle. Here, we argue that biotic and abiotic stress interactions, and the genetics and genomics underlying them, have been insufficiently addressed by the crop science community. We propose this as a reason for the limited transfer of practical and feasible climate adaptation knowledge from research projects into routine farming practice. To address this gap, we propose that novel methodology integration can align large volumes of data available from crop breeding programs with increasingly cheaper omics tools to predict wheat performance under different climate change scenarios. Underlying this is our proposal that breeders design and deliver future wheat ideotypes based on new or enhanced understanding of the genetic and physiological processes that are triggered when wheat is subjected to combinations of stresses. By defining this to a trait and/or genetic level, new insights can be made for yield improvement under future climate conditions.