Study Examines Drought-Tolerant Crops

BUSHLAND -- Scientists at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension office have finished a study on how certain kinds of wheat are resisting drought.

Wheat growers have been able to take advantage of crop breeding intended to improve the amount harvested over the years.

"If you look at the last few decades, we've been able to improve the water use and efficency. We're able to keep the water better than it used to be, " said Dr. Qingwu Xue who co-authored the study. Xue and other crop related researchers at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research compared older kinds of wheat to newer varieties that are more resistant to drought and dry land conditions, but also more efficient at using moisture.

The breeding has taken place over the last 40 or 50 years and has been successful, meaning that today's farmers can get more out of certain kinds of wheat during dry periods than their predecessors. 

The results of the study include the importance of above-ground biomass at the plant's maturity, which makes up the stems, leaves, and heads. The more biomass, the better the wheat is at extracting water from the soil, which leads to higher yield.

Now, the team of researchers will look at how the different varieties use soil water and how the roots develop and grow to understand how to increase biomass.

The study will be published in the January issue of the journal, Crop Science.

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