FFAR Grant to Accelerate Crop Development

June 29, 2020

To meet the growing global food demand, plant breeding technology must increase crop yields in less time. The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) awarded a $748,548 Seeding Solutions grant to Iowa State University of Science and Technology to accelerate crop development. Iowa State University, KWS SAAT SE & Co, Beck’s Superior Hybrids, BASF, SAATEN-UNION BIOTEC and RAGT are providing matching funds for a total $1,497,097 investment.

The global demand for food, feed and fiber is projected to double by 2050. Currently, it takes ten years, on average, for plant breeders to develop a new crop. Farmers need enhanced varieties sooner to meet future food production demands.

Iowa State University researchers are developing breeding methods that apply to multiple crop species, to accelerate the plant breeding process. These breeding techniques will deliver improved crop varieties – with greater yields – into the hands of farmers sooner. Researchers are developing and validating a rapid cycling cell culture-based selection system, using corn as the model. In lay terms, researchers are accelerating breeding in the lab, rather than in the fields. Field trials only produce one generation of crops a year, whereas this research method can produce multiple generations in a year, which is a more efficient way to create new crop varieties.

Principal investigator Thomas Lubberstedt is the founder of the Doubled Haploid Facility at Iowa State University, providing service to public and private maize breeders for accelerated inbred line development since 2010. “The novel FFAR project takes this technology to the next level, including isolation of genes controlling spontaneous haploid genome doubling,” said Lubberstedt.

“Developing cutting edge plant breeding technology ensures that farmers are able to provide more nutritious crops more efficiently,” said FFAR’s Executive Director Dr. Sally Rockey. “Translating this research from the lab onto farms is key to meeting food production challenges and staying competitive in this next frontier of agricultural innovation.”

FFAR’s Seeding Solutions Grant Program is an open call for bold ideas that address a pressing food and agriculture issues in one of the Foundation’s Challenge Areas. Iowa State University’s research supports FFAR’s  Next Generation Crops Area. FFAR’s work in this area supports the advancement of novel, nutritious, profitable and resilient farm crops.