Defra - Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Science Search

Science and Research Projects

Return to Science Search homepage   Return to Project List

An Integrated Approach to Increasing Water Use Efficiency and Drought Tolerance of Wheat Production in UK - WU0121

7. (a) Project description
This proposal allows investigation of the G x E x M interaction (Genotype x Environment x Management) in the determination of crop yield under drought. The project will be a proof of concept to illustrate the impact of novel crop management options and genetics on the efficient use of water in agriculture and the yield of cereals under UK conditions. These management options include:
• the precise scheduling of irrigation to avoid the impacts of soil physical stresses (dry, hard soil),
• the deployment of naturally occurring soil-borne bacteria that can influence plant growth and development by minimizing both chemical and hydraulic limitations on plant growth,
• the use of new genotypes with deep rooting patterns to maximize resource (water, nutrients) capture from the soil.

The impact of these management options and new genotypes on the environmental footprint of agriculture will also be assessed.

b) Objectives
Please describe the general objectives of the project and the technical and scientific aims of the research which must be measurable and timebound (please number the objectives). If your application is accepted, these objectives will be included in the agreement between you and the Department. Please, therefore, restrict your entry to the salient points and set these out clearly and concisely.

Shortage of water will inevitably restrict growth and yield of major UK crops. This reduction can be minimised/avoided using a combination of genetics and management techniques in a range of soils and climatic environments. Such techniques can increase the efficiency with which water is used in agriculture and increase drought resistance of cropping systems. Via these manipulations, the environmental footprint of agriculture can be reduced.
• Irrigation techniques can be optimised to apply water where and when needed in the quantities required. Target: this approach should allow increased efficiency of water use and the use of controlled soil drying as a regulator of growth and development. Nutrient run-off may also be minimised.
• Rhizobacteria can be used to overcome some of the inevitable reduction of plant growth caused by soil drying. Target: this approach should allow manipulation of the balance of plant growth regulators in the plant to overcome any growth limitation induced by deficit irrigation
• Elite genotypes with deeper rooting patterns can be used to reduce signalling- induced limitations to growth and yield. Scavenging of soil for water and nutrients can be increased. Target: this approach should allow more effective use of water and nutrients in agriculture. Reduced water abstraction and nutrient run off might result.
Our proposal is that a combination of these approaches can produce an impressive impact on the sustainability of UK agriculture as climate changes and the demand for food production increases. Target: more effective use of water, nutrients and land.

We approach these goals by setting the following objectives:
(1) Assess the impact of rhizobacterial application on growth, development and functioning of wheat genotypes
(2) Assess variation in rooting characteristics of populations of wheat suitable for UK agriculture
(3) Quantify the impact of deeper rooting on water and nutrient uptake and drought tolerance
(4) Assess the combined impact of genotype, management and environmental manipulations on water and nutrient use efficiency and yield of wheat in field environments
(5) Assess the impacts of these technologies on UK agricultural productivity and water resource management, and transfer this science and technology into the farming community

Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2009

To: 2012

Cost: £220,068
Contractor / Funded Organisations
University - Lancaster, Rothamsted Research (BBSRC), Myerscough College
Environmental Protection              
Water Use