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UNL's deep dive into wheat roots

UNL's deep dive into wheat roots

By Scout Nelson

At a recent workshop, a grower's query about the advantages of old wheat varieties over new ones sparked a detailed study by University of Nebraska-Lincoln specialists. The study, led by Milena Oliveria, Daniel Schachtman, Cody Creech, and Amanda Easterly, focuses on exploring the differences in root growth and structure between historical and contemporary wheat cultivars.

Wheat, particularly sensitive to drought, relies heavily on effective root systems for water absorption in Nebraska's semi-arid regions. Traditional breeding has predominantly enhanced above-ground traits like yield and disease resistance. This project aims to delve deeper—literally into the ground.

The team at UNL's High Plains Ag Lab began their research in April, collecting root samples from various wheat genotypes. This initial collection involved 60 samples across 12 genotypes, comparing older, taller cultivars believed to have more extensive root systems against newer breeds.

In addition to physical root analysis, the researchers will study the microbial communities in the rhizosphere—the soil surrounding the roots. This will involve extracting and sequencing DNA to identify and compare bacterial communities associated with different wheat varieties.

The results from this study will not only answer the initial query raised by growers but also contribute to future wheat breeding efforts at UNL.

By understanding the root traits that confer advantages under drought conditions, breeders can develop new cultivars that better meet the challenges of modern agriculture in Nebraska and beyond.

Photo Credit -gettyimages-ianchrisgraham

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Categories: Nebraska, Crops, Wheat

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