A major obstacle in the development of organic and low-input farming in the UK is the problem of trade-offs in yield versus quality, particularly in cereals. For example, there is a substantial gap between the supply of home-grown organic milling wheat and demand, partially due to variability and shortfalls in wheat yield and quality. To find ways of improving yield and quality of organic wheat the Organic Research Centre, led by Professor Martin Wolfe of Wakelyns Agroforestry, developed the ‘YQ’ Composite Cross Population (CCP; ORC Wakelyns Population) in collaboration with the John Innes Centre. This work pioneered the use of evolutionary breeding and ‘plant populations’ (or heterogeneous material), instead of pure-line variety development, in the UK. Increasing diversity within crop species will be important as we transition the UK’s food and farming system to net zero, reduce dependence on artificial inputs, and work to maintain production in the face of climate instability.
This webinar gives an overview of current research on plant populations, what this approach can offer, what we still need to understand and how we might get policymakers to support wider use of such genetically diverse cereals. There is a short series of presentations followed by a panel discussion chaired by Dr Charlotte Bickler, Knowledge Exchange and Policy Manager at ORC.