Increasing Dietary Fiber in Wheat Crop

Generating Health-Agriculture Nexus Solutions

Lucyna Kurtyka, M.S.
lkurtyka@foundationfar.org

FFAR award amount   $480,000

Year Awarded   2019

Total award amount   $960,000

Location   Davis, CA 95616

Matching Funders   Bay State Milling, California Wheat Commission and Limagrain Cereal Seeds

Program   Seeding Solutions

What challenge is this research grant tackling?

Diets lacking fiber are linked to serious health concerns, but Americans only consume 30 percent of the recommended daily amount of fiber. One way to increase fiber consumption is to produce wheat varieties that contain more fiber in the refined flour that consumers prefer. This is possible by increasing the amount of “resistant starch” which behaves as dietary fiber. A small increase in fiber content in refined flour products can translate into a significant boost in the public’s consumption of dietary fiber without sacrificing taste.

There have been previous attempts to increase fiber content in refined wheat flour through technology and breeding. However, the first generation of wheat varieties with increased dietary fiber showed reduced grain yield, making the grain more costly.

University of California, Davis researchers, led by Dr. Jorge Dubcovsky, are developing a second generation of wheat varieties with a higher grain yield and high fiber in the refined flour. The team is investigating ways to increase fiber using modified starch synthesis enzymes, along with traditional breeding methods. The enhanced wheat will have a higher yield, allowing access to tasty and healthy food.

Why is this research important?

The researchers are encouraging consumer fiber consumption by developing productive high-fiber wheat varieties with higher yields and lower costs, while maintaining flavor and quality. Other benefits:

  • Wheat growers will have a more productive wheat with higher market value.
  • Wheat millers, bakers and retailers will have healthier products that match public interest for healthier food.
  • Consumers will have access to healthier food that help them reach recommended levels of dietary fiber without sacrificing flavor or quality.

Research Details

Using genetic tools and molecular markers, the researchers are identifying genes responsible for wheat yield, quality and fiber content. With this information, they are testing combinations of wheat genetics, environmental conditions and growing practices that encourage high-yield and high-fiber crops.

Objectives

  • Identify chromosomes linked to negative and positive effects on grain yield, quality and dietary fiber content. This will help breeders accelerate the development of more productive wheat varieties.
  • Identify genetic backgrounds, environmental conditions and growing practices to reduce the negative effects of genetic alterations on wheat growth and productivity.
  • Develop wheat lines that express fiber-promoting genes in the leaves but not in the grain, which researchers hypothesize will minimize the negative effects of genetic alterations on plant growth.

How this research contributes to FFAR’s missions:

We fund research that advances nutritious and profitable farm crops and pioneering technologies that benefits growers and consumers. This grant is developing innovative approaches to improving human health by developing desirable crops with high nutritional value.

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