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Breeding for increased nitrogen-use efficiency in bread wheat


Breeding for increased nitrogen-use efficiency in bread wheat through an integrated approach

Tech Area / Field

  • ENV-EHS/Environmental Health and Safety/Environment
  • AGR-FOD/Food & Nutrition/Agriculture

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
Institute of Ecology Problems at Kazakh National University the named after al-Farabi, Kazakhstan, Alamaty

Supporting institutes

  • Issyk-Kul State University named after K. Tynystanov, Kyrgyzstan, Karakol


  • John Innes Centre, UK, Norwich

Project summary

The project involves to develop a systematic approach breeding for increased nitrogen-use efficiency (NUE) and grain quality for prediction of both priorities for directions of improvement of NUE and impact of components influencing this trait. An integrated approach using the genetically stable mutant lines generated in the background of three local spring wheat varieties, Zhenis, Almaken and Eritrospermum-35. These mutant lines have broad genetic variation and were generated by gamma-irradiation of the parents and have been grown in state-of-the-science regional studies located in the Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
The project will use an integrated approach that investigates physiological, metabolic, molecular and genetic factors that determine NUE in wheat. The aim is to identify using new genetic resources some key determinants of NUE in these spring wheats. The proposal is a joint application between Kazakh National University (named after al-Farabi) and Issyk-Kul State University (named after K. Tynystanov). For the first time in Kazakhstan a systematic approach to breeding for increased NUE and grain quality will be undertaken. The project will help define future priorities and directions for the improvement of wheat NUE and it will identify important traits relevant to wheat growing in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

In Kazakhstan the genetically stable mutant lines generated in the background of local spring wheat varieties will be screened at high and low N supplies under field conditions relevant to both countries environments. This will allow the identification of phenotypes with consistently high NUE, defined by the N in the grain pided by available N from the soil. We will further determine the contribution of components determining NUE, such as N-uptake (NUpE) calculated as total of N in plant shoots at harvest pided by the available N in soil and the utilization efficiency (NUtE) calculated as the grain mass pided by the total amount of N in plant shoots at harvest. The agronomic screening for NUE in wheat growing in the field will be conducted with the help of the Kirgiz team during the growth seasons and harvests. The agronomic screening for NUE in the wheat mutation resources at normal and low N fertilizer inputs will include the analysis of yield productivity components (grain number per main spike, grain weight per spike, grain yield per plant, the thousand grain weight, spike number per plant), spike length and grain physical parameters (grain area, length and width). The results obtained will be used to evaluate correlations between yield, grain size and quality parameters. The scientific group for phenotyping will consist of 11 people made up of: 6 physiologists, microbiologist, chemist, and 3 technical assistants. The group will work in the field during the growth seasons in the spring and late summer (approximately from April 5 until August 10). The experiments for the first two years will be carried out in the fields of the Kazakh Institute of Agricultural and Farming near Almaty (43o15′N, 76o54′E, elevation 550 m above mean sea level) and at the Ak-Suu State Variety Testing Station in Kirgizia which is located in the zone of moderate moistening of the Eastern part of the Issyk-Kul valley (elevation 1600 m above mean sea level). Supplying normal and low applications of N fertilizers will be at both sites. The yield-associated traits and N-related plant parameters will be measured and this agronomic screening allows the identification of high NUE phenotypes in regional environments.

In the project, it is of prime interest to evaluate in the field experiments in the Kazakhstan and Kirgizia, the accumulation and remobilization of N reserves of mutant lines of spring wheat varieties under low and normal N fertilizer level at anthesis and post-anthesis.
The scientists that will take part in this project are well experienced in the study of mutation breeding, including development of the genetically stable mutant lines of spring wheat varieties cultivated in Kazakhstan. This broad genetic variation will be used in agronomic screening for NUE in wheat, evaluation of grain quality parameters such as grain protein content (GPC) and its qualitative composition, metals concentrations, as well as the identification of soil microorganisms in the rhizosphere, and using 15N labelling techniques analysis and molecular methods. The strength of the team is shown by their previous participation in several international projects. These projects and the funders can be listed: IAEA Regional TC project RER/5/013 Evaluation of Europe Natural and Mutant Genetic Diversity in Cereals by Nuclear and Molecular Techniques 2007-2011, National Coordinator –IAEA National TC project KAZ/5002 «Improving Wheat and Maize Using Nuclear and Molecular Techniques” 2009-2011, KAZ5002 «Improving wheat and maize using nuclear and molecular techniques”, 2009-2011 and KAZ5003 “Increasing Micronutrient Content and Bioavailability in wheat germplasm by means of an integrated Approach”, 2012-2015, SNSF nr IZ737 152374 / 1 “Genome wide persity analysis of Balkan, Caucasian and Central Asian wheat for sustainable bread wheat production, 2015-2017, ISTC #KR-1784 “Investigation of plague epidemiology and epizootiology for the purpose of biosafety of population in Issyk-Kul region of Kyrgyzstan”; # KR-330.3 “Studying Water Balance and Hydrodynamics of Lake Issyk-Kul with a Help of Isotope Methods”; in the program of Biological Threat Reduction of USA Department of Defense ¹ KZ-28 "Genetic features of particularly dangerous zoonotic pathogens (Yersinia pestis, Francisella tularensis, Bacillus anthracis) of Kazakhstan»; SBI-TAR-6 «Immunodiagnostic of antiplague vaccination of human in Kazakhstan» and “Biosafety Association for Central Asia and the Caucasus” (BACAC). The activities of proposed project will help to promote international scientific and technical collaborations in the of breeding for increased nitrogen-use efficiency through an integrated approach and create long-term prospects for developing genetic and management strategies to reduce the dependence of intensive wheat production on high levels of N fertilization and predict the local implications of high N inputs based on state-of-the-science regional studies within the framework of International Scientific Association.


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