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K-State Research and Extension

Turning up the heat on wheat 


What are we doing:

Researchers are turning up the heat on wheat to determine whether higher nighttime temperatures cause significant yield and quality losses. They have planted wheat inside small tent structures equipped with heaters, fans, temperature sensors, and a credit-card-sized computer so they can control the heat.

Each night, the wheat is exposed to a temperature approximately 7 degrees higher than the temperature outside the structure. They are then able to test how the wheat inside the tent reacts to heat stress compared to wheat planted outside the tent.

It is believed that higher nighttime temperatures are more damaging to wheat yields than high daytime temperatures.

Our impact:

Testing heat stress on wheat under realistic field conditions allows researchers to better understand the plant’s physiological and genetic responses to heat. Next, they perform biochemical and molecular analysis to produce genetic markers that can help improve wheat to withstand warmer nighttime temperatures.

The enhancements will make their way into breeding programs around the world so new varieties will yield well even in the harshest climates.

The work at K-State is the first known project to test nighttime temperatures under field conditions for winter wheat. A follow-up to the initial study is planned, using larger tents to grow wheat under field conditions.

The research is funded by the National Science Foundation through its Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research program, known as EPSCoR. K-State is working on the study in partnership with the University of Nebraska and Arkansas State University. The project also includes studies on wheat and rice.


Read the full story on the K-State Research and Extension News page



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“This is a really important project because as we look forward in breeding, it’s 10 to 12 years from the time we make a cross to the time we release a new variety. As we start to deal with these additional stresses, it’s really important to have the tools to do that.” 

 Allan Fritz, wheat breeder, K-State Research and Extension