This May 10, 2022 file photo shows wheat stalks in a field in Shenze County, in China’s northern Hebei province. XINHUA PHOTO
This May 10, 2022 file photo shows wheat stalks in a field in Shenze County, in China’s northern Hebei province. XINHUA PHOTO

CANBERRA: An international study led by Australian researchers has discovered a way to produce higher quality wheat.

The study, published in the journal Science Advances by the University of Adelaide and the United Kingdom's John Innes Center on Wednesday, identified a genetic driver that improves crop yield and can increase protein content by up to 25 percent.

Scott Boden, lead author of the study from the University of Adelaide's School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, said the discovery could lead to new wheat varieties that produce higher-quality grains.

The study is the first time researchers have identified a gene responsible for reproductive development using forward-genetics screening.

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"As wheat accounts for nearly 20 percent of protein consumed worldwide, the impact of this research can significantly benefit society by providing grains with a higher protein content, which could therefore help produce more nutritious food, such as bread and breakfast cereals," Boden said in a media release.

"The genetic variation we identified provides a 15-percent to 25-percent increase in protein content for plants grown in the field. These varieties also produce extra spikelets, known as paired spikelets," he said.

"The increase in protein content occurs without the tradeoff of a reduced yield so this discovery has even better potential to provide economic benefit to breeders and growers than just the increased nutritional value by itself."

Researchers are optimistic that new wheat varieties would be available to breeders in two to three years, with farmers to start reaping benefits within a decade.