Transforming Agriculture, Perennially

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How Seeds from War-Torn Syria Could Help Save American Wheat

Publication: Yale Environment 360

Author: Mark Shapiro

When a team of researchers set loose a buzzing horde of Hessian flies on 20,000 seedlings in a Kansas greenhouse, they made a discovery that continues to ripple from Midwestern wheat fields to the rolling hills that surround the battered Syrian city of Aleppo. The seeds once stored in a seed bank outside of that now largely destroyed city could end up saving United States wheat from the disruptions triggered by climate change — and look likely to, soon enough, make their way into the foods that Americans eat.

A further list of pest-resistance traits published last year by a collaborative team of scientists from the Institute of Crop Germplasm and Biotechnology in China and The Land Institute, which has been conducting long-term research on resilient grasses and cereals in Kansas, concluded that tauschii shows resistance traits to more than half a dozen common insect pests, including the cereal leaf beetle, the root lesion nematode, stem rust, yellow rust, and, as the team at Kansas State also discovered, the Hessian fly.


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