The Grow Project
Genetic Research On Wheat (GROW) is a national project to involve school students in wheat research. School students will have the opportunity to engage in authentic scientific research along with professional scientists.
GROW aims to involve students across the UK in improving wheat crops by growing varieties of wheat and studying a gene that has the potential to produce drought-tolerant high yield wheat strains. This will provide the opportunity for students to take part in tackling the challenge of providing Global Food Security to feed the growing population.
The project will engage students in plant sciences, introduce them to the requirements of conducting ground breaking research and provide an insight into the careers available through further study of biological sciences.
The ultimate outcome of the project will be peer reviewed findings published in a scientific journal that will push forward the boundaries of human knowledge.
Students at Simon Langton Grammar School will use a range of molecular biology techniques to investigate a cross-bred wheat population grown within a greenhouse on the school site. The students will be involved in every step of the discovery process from physically crossing parental wheat strains in the greenhouse to gene mapping workshops in the laboratory.
The seeds produced by the crossings of the wheat strains will be disseminated to schools across the UK so that the plants can be grown and monitored in a variety of locations. The project will inspire students by providing the chance to be involved in research excellence that makes discoveries with a real impact.
Observations on the growth, yield and appearance of the wheat will be conducted at schools throughout the UK and the data collected for analysis. Teachers across the UK will be able to analyse the wheat growth data with their classes and discuss the contribution of wheat research to solving long term food security concerns. Teachers will also be able to access supporting materials and resources as well as take part in CPD workshops.
Key principles of the national GROW projects
- Activities are low tech and relatively cheap
- They produce genuinely useful scientific data
- They can be carried out by a wide age range
- They are of educational benefit
Students from Simon Langton Grammar School and scientists from the John Innes centre have got together to use a range of molecular biology techniques to investigate the genetics of a cross-bred wheat population grown within a greenhouse on the school site.
The study will involve crossing parental wheat strains and conducting fine gene mapping of the wheat genome.
Observations on the growth, yield and appearance of the wheat will be conducted at schools throughout the UK and the data collected for analysis.
The ability of the Green revolution to increase wheat yields and double crop production was largely due to the semi-dwarfing genes that allow the plants to partition more carbon in the grains than stem and leaf in addition to reducing the tendency of the crop to lodge, or collapse, prior to harvest.
The Reduced height 8 (Rht8) semi-dwarfing gene is one of the few, together with the Green Revolution genes, to reduce wheat stature and improve lodging resistance without compromising grain yield. Rht8 is widely used in dry environments such as the Mediterranean countries where it increases plant adaptability. With recent climate change, its use could become increasingly important even in more Northern latitudes. The Rht8 gene has been characterised by researchers at the John Innes centre to gain a better understanding of height regulation and benefits to breeding programmes of hexaploid wheat.
The aim is to investigate a novel dwarfing gene known as rht7 (reduced height 7) in crosses between Capelle desprez-Bersee SD-A (Triticum aestivum) and Paragon wheat strains.
This particular form of dwarfing gene, the seventh such dwarfing gene to be described, is known to exist in certain indigenous strains of wheat used within the Mediterranean region. In contrast to the dwarfing gene present in most modern varieties, rht7 only induces a dwarfing phenotype after a period of normal growth following germination; in a harsh climate with little rainfall, this gives a better chance for the crop to establish when it is at its most vulnerable to desiccation. Rht7 is, a gene with a potential for future crop improvement but as yet, its precise location within the genome is unknown, as is the inheritance (dominant or recessive) and any negative impacts on the plants.
The hope is that these investigations will lead to a fine-map the location of the rht7 gene on the chromosome 2A, using techniques based around the well-known Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) amplifying up regions of interest containing sections of traceable DNA, or markers, in the presence of fluorescent primers. This enables the inheritance of different sections of chromosome to be tracked from parent to offspring. By using a number of these markers spread out along the chromosome of interest we will be able to correlate the dwarfing and normal phenotypes seen in plants the glasshouse to particular DNA markers in the lab and so locate the precise position of the gene of the chromosome.
Fine-mapping and characterisation of the Rht7 semi-dwarfing gene in wheat strains will provide a better understanding of height regulation and yield in order to provide additional breeding options to adapt and cope with arid conditions.
The breeding and genetic investigations will be complemented with analysis of the phenotype through;
- Biochemical measurements, (lignin content etc)
- Investigation of temperature and hormone responses
Wheat genetics is more complicated than that of most other domesticated species. Some wheat species are diploid, with two sets of chromosomes, but many are stablepolyploids, with four sets of chromosomes (tetraploid) or six (hexaploid). Hexaploid wheats evolved in farmers’ fields. Either domesticated emmer or durum wheat hybridized with yet another wild diploid grass (Aegilops tauschii) to make the hexaploidwheats, spelt wheat and bread wheat. These have three sets of paired chromosomes, three times as many as in diploid wheat. Further information on the sequencing of the wheat genome is available at www.wheatgenome.info/