London: British scientists are developing a new wheat variety which they say could be resistant to drought and diseases, an experiment, if successful, may lead to better crop yields.
A consortium of researchers, who will spend about seven million pounds on breeding the special wheat crops, believe that better productivity could help cut prices and improve availability worldwide.
The project, which is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, will use information on wheat genetics obtained last year to track key traits through generations of plants, the Daily Mail reported.
The researchers hope that exploiting traits found in wild wheat will allow them to grow strains that are resistant to drought, disease, salt and other pests and problems.
Higher-yielding crops should cut prices and improve availability an ever-more populated world, they said, adding that there are, however, no plans to create GM crops.
Project leader Professor Graham Moore, of the John Innes Centre in Norwich, said: "There is an urgent need to improve yields of wheat; it is estimated that in the next 50 years we will need to harvest as much wheat as has been produced since the beginning of agriculture 10,000 years ago."
Wheat is the second most popular staple crop after rice, with more than 550million tonnes harvested each year around the world.
But it is at the mercy of nature, with last year?s Russian harvest devastated by drought and wildfires. Flooding in Pakistan and mudslides in China also contributed to soaring prices.
Science Minister David Willetts said: "This investment has the potential to make a real difference to people and farmers, whilst at the same time increasing our body of scientific knowledge."