TECH

New 'Superwheat' Created By British Scientists Could Help To Feed World's Ever Increasing Population

12/05/2013 20:11 BST | Updated 12/05/2013 20:19 BST

British scientists say they have created a new type of "superwheat" which could help to solve the problem of feeding the world's ever increasing population.

Researchers combined modern wheat varieties with ancient goat grasses to produce new strains which increase yields by 30 per cent as well as boosting the crop's resistance to disease and its tolerance of drought.

Dr Phil Howell, of the National Institute of Agricultural Botany which carried out the research, said progress was vital to feed the world's growing population.

superwheat

Wheat farmers have been facing ever decreasing yields

He told BBC One's Countryfile: "We need to be doing things differently if we are going to increase yields enough to feed the world in the future, and so we need to be looking at varieties that conventional breeding just can't reach.

"We have reached the stage now where yields have plateaued a bit on farm.

"It's quite clear with the challenges of increasing global population - key pesticides are being taken out of use, and energy costs an awful lot - that we are going to have to produce more from less in future."

Dr Howell said it is estimated that in the next 50 years we will need to produce as much wheat as we have in the "last 10,000 years".

He added that there are "untapped varieties" which his team hope to exploit.

Earlier this month it was reported that last year's poor wheat harvest will force the makers of one of Britain's best-loved biscuits to use imported wheat.

McVitie's Digestives may have to start using a blend of UK and imported wheat because of the poor harvest, according to The Grocer magazine.

David Gardner, chief executive of the Royal Agricultural Society, told Countryfile that the UK needed to do to more to bring scientific breakthroughs into use on farms.

Gardner said: "I think the UK is excellent in terms of what we call basic science or blue sky science.

"It's not so good in terms of taking that science and bringing it through into practical stuff that farmers can actually do on the farm and then taking it through and telling farmers about it."