KANSAS CITY — Representatives from 16 countries and international groups  recently formed a multinational organization dedicated to increasing the genetic yield potential of wheat by 50% over the next 20 years. 

Named the Wheat Yield Network (WYN), the group said it plans to spend $50 million to $75 million over the next five years to meet this objective. An integral focus will be adding to wheat yields through improvements to the plant’s basic processes, including photosynthesis.

Impetus to undertake the project was the fast growth of world human populations, coupled with the flattening of attainable wheat yields as well as frequent price fluctuations, changes in diets and the challenges of climate change, the WYN said.

Among the key aims of WYN are to increase global yields and develop varieties that will produce well in different geographic conditions. Methodology will concentrate on augmenting the existing physiology of the wheat plant and combining those improvements with all other breeding objectives by all the participating governments and research institutions, the WYN said.

The new organization said it expects to be able to deliver a scientific plan, a management and governance structure and a timeline by its next meeting, scheduled for March 2013.

“To tackle global problems such as this, collaboration and coordination at the international level will be required between governmental, non-governmental and private sector organizations,” the WYN said

The group said it plans to incorporate the vision and scientific methods of the Global Wheat Initiative, which was established following G20 meetings in 2011 and reaffirmed in 2012.

The WYN also said it believed in the importance of building on existing organizations dedicated to improving world-wide wheat production.

“We acknowledge the important groundwork and scientific vision outlined by a Wheat Yield Consortium … and the support that has already been provided to this effort by the government agencies of China, Mexico, UK and USA,” the WYN said in a recent communique.

The WYN said it has plans to engage the private sector as well as government entities in the project to increase wheat yields The WYN outlined the need to decide on structure and governance, to establish a committee to define the organization’s scientific scope, to complete a global mapping of existing wheat yield research and to communicate with potential funders on research needs, the WYN said.

Participants in the establishment of the wheat yield initiative were from the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, China Argentina, Brazil, Turkey, Germany, India, Mexico, France, Japan and Ireland.