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August 8, 2017



Kansas State University Joins Project to Develop Heat Tolerant Crops

By Pat Melgares

Researchers in the Kansas State University Department of Agronomy have begun a .8 million project to test the resiliency of Kansas wheat varieties to high night-time temperatures. Pictured, left to right, are associate professor Krishna Jagadish; assist

Kansas State University researchers have received nearly $1.8 million to begin studying the impact of high night-time temperatures on the yield and quality of wheat.

Their work will be done in conjunction with similar projects at the University of Nebraska and Arkansas State University. The National Science Foundation recently awarded the $5.78 million to Nebraska.

Krishna Jagadish, a crop physiologist in the Department of Agronomy at Kansas State University, and the team at Kansas State will study the impact of high night temperature and the genetic diversity in wheat, using state-of-the-art, field-based tents.

“Previous studies involving night temperature impacts in wheat have all been carried out in controlled growth chambers,” said research associate Raju Bheemanahalli. “This project will be novel in terms of estimating wheat response to high night temperature under realistic field conditions, including a wide range of diverse wheat cultivars.”

“Heat stress is a common and serious challenge during the post-flowering stage of wheat, which not only affects yield, but most importantly it affects quality,” Jagadish said, adding that the university’s expertise in understanding the physiology of heat stress in cereal crops and its work with high-throughput phenotyping with unmanned aerial vehicles are a big plus for this project.

Antonio Ray Asebedo, an assistant professor in agronomy, will lead work on high-throughput phenotyping – a technology that can rapidly and precisely measure a plant’s traits. The project includes using a sophisticated, image-based phenotyping system that takes high-resolution images of the plants as they endure simulated high night-time temperature conditions.

They will then use computer software to process the images, and detect daily differences among the varieties that are not visible to the human eye. Researchers can identify genes responsible for heat tolerance by matching slight variations with differences in each plant’s genetic makeup.

The National Science Foundation is funding this project through its Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, better known as EPSCoR.