Varietal improvement for enhancing yield, disease resistance and end-use quality would be the major objective of crop improvement programme. This will be supported by following research activities to strengthen basic work on wheat genetics.
Prebreeding- genetic enhancement
Pre-breeding for capturing variability from wild/related species (Aegilops spp.and derived synthetics) and exotic germplasm (winter wheat, buitre and Chinese lines) will be pursued with renewed vigour for diversifying genetic variability to increase yield, resistance to biotic stresses and tolerance to abiotic stresses. The dicoccum wheat would be used for transferring some desired (quality and stem rust resistance) traits. Similarly different sources of rye genome (e.g., hexaploid triticale lines) would be used for producing translocations with different rye segments (R genome) to introgress abiotic features into hexaploid wheat. Embryo rescue and modern molecular cytogenetic tools for introgression of specific genomic segments from wild/related species would be utilized. In addition traits related to enhanced photosynthetic capacity, efficiency and Optimizing partitioning to grain will be studied.
Developing varieties suitable under changing environments
As climatic changes may cause widespread changes in the prevailing abiotic and biotic situations, incorporating resistance/tolerance features during varietal development would be a safe proposition. Varieties possessing enhanced resistance to biotic stresses, terminal heat and moisture stress, pre-harvest sprouting resistance, tolerance to saline, alkaline and waterlogged conditions and systems adaptability would be developed. Molecular breeding tools would be used wherever possible. Improving the yield of short duration varieties for intensive farming would be prioritized.
Development of hybrid wheat
The development of hybrids in wheat will be undertaken to raise the ceiling of yield in a public-private partnership (PPP) mode. The private sector seed companies would be involved in production and marketing of wheat hybrids. The role of apomixes for hybrid wheat development would be explored.
Germplasm conservation and characterization
Germplasm constitute the building blocks for plant breeding. Acquisition, evaluation and management of germplasm resources, assessing genetic diversity for agronomic and developmental traits, identifying novel genetic elements associated with disease resistance, quality and value-adding traits and specific genes and alleles for utilization in wheat and barley improvement would be continued. Conserving the biodiversity and genetic wealth of wheat and barley would be given priority.
For quick dissemination of seeds of new varieties among farmers, higher quantity of quality seed production is required. Higher seed replacement rate would be thus achieved. The capacity of private seed industries would be harnessed for achieving high seed production and expediting distribution of new varieties.
Biotechnology in wheat improvement
Biotechnology is intended for strengthening basic research and utilizing molecular tools for augmenting crop improvement.
(a) Basic molecular biology studies
The platforms such as genomics, proteomics, transcriptomics and metabolomics are useful in understanding the gene functions associated with various regulatory pathways determining phenotypic and biochemical expression. These methodologies would be utilized in designing desired genotypes of wheat and barley.
(b) High throughput genotyping for molecular breeding
Utilization of markers would form one of the basic steps for precision breeding in future. In order to expand the use of next generation markers, facilities for high throughput genotyping would be set up at selected wheat research centres across the country.
(c) Development of transgenic wheat
Transgenics are the future sources for effective control of biotic and abiotic stresses which may be more serious in the coming years due to climate changes. A core competence on transformation techniques and containment facilities for development and evaluation of transgenics in wheat is proposed to be established. Cooperation between public and private sectors would be sought in this endevour.
(d)Developing national phenomics facility to screen for abiotic stresses
A national phenomics facility is proposed for establishment at ICAR-IIWBR, Karnal which would also be extended to all wheat scientists across the country. This facility would offer rapid, precise and noninvasive characterization of plant traits responsible for tolerance to abiotic stresses. The screening would identify genotypes for use in molecular and conventional breeding.
(e) Production of doubled haploids on large scale for shortening the breeding cycle
Doubled haploid (DH) production would be undertaken on a large scale at many centres for producing completely homozygous lines in a single generation to shorten the time for developing varieties. DH would also be useful for meta-QTL analysis.