Blog #5: Overview of Gene Editing and Wheat (Series)

Blog #5: Overview of Gene Editing and Wheat (Series)
By NAWG Summer 2019 Intern Merrick Irvin

To feed the world’s growing population, agriculture has worked to greatly improve production techniques and advance plant and animal genetics. Wheat is one of the most widely produced and consumed cereal grains in the world and is considered a vital staple for the human diet. Within the wheat industry, the utilization of gene editing is allowing for vast advancements in the way we grow wheat. In a recent four-part blog series, NAWG Summer 2019 Intern Merrick Irvine looked at how technology around wheat has progressed over the past several decades. This fifth blog summarizes the highlights from the series.

Blog #1: The History of Wheat and Its Future
Before the 19th century, advancements in wheat production were relatively few and far between. Three major advances occurred during the 19th century that led to the modern wheat industry. Fast forward to today, and we see new wheat varieties being researched and studied all throughout the world. Technologies like gene editing can mean endless possibilities for the the future of the wheat crop.

Blog#2: The Science Behind Gene Editing
In the second blog of our series, we explored the basics behind gene editing. Understanding the science behind gene editing will make it easier to understand how the technology can be used to advance wheat production.

Blog #3: Wheat Could Soon Be Gluten Free
Great amounts of research are currently being done how different technologies can improve wheat. One type of research is to find wheat varieties safe for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. In this third blog, Merrick explores the current research being conducted to make a low-gluten variety of wheat.

Blog #4: Decreasing Reliance on Pesticides and Fertilizer Usage Through Gene Editing
Scientists are also searching for ways to make wheat naturally resistant to various types of diseases and pests. Through gene editing technology, wheat is becoming resistant to a once detrimental pest that would destroy entire fields. Specifically, wheat that is resistant to the fungal diseases powdery mildew and head scab are being researched. Gene editing is working to create wheat varieties that rely less on pesticides and are naturally hardy.

What’s Next?
Scientists and researchers are paving the way for making agriculture more sustainable as well as dampen its effect on the environment. While research is still being conducted, hopefully we will begin to benefit from gene edited wheat varieties in the future. A great amount of work is continuing to make wheat and agriculture more productive and efficient. Technology like gene editing can help farmers meet the needs of an ever-increasing population while user fewer inputs.