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Using technology and science to cultivate future breeds of wheat

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Category: research Video duration: Using technology and science to cultivate future breeds of wheat
Nicholas Santantonio is an Assistant Professor at the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences in the College Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Santantonio leads a diverse team of the Small Grains breeding program at Virginia Tech. The purpose is to breed better, more sustainable varieties of wheat and barley.

Each one of these squares is a plot of wheat. And each one of those plots has a different variety in it. At the small grains breeding program at Virginia Tech, we are developing new varieties of soft wheat, hard wheat, and barley. Our largest focus is on soft wheat, which is an important part of the agroecosystem and the rotation here in the Eastern U.S. The hard wheat has, has been an important project because we want to produce high-quality bread wheat that can be used, that doesn't have to be shipped across the United States and then processed in the mills here in Virginia. A lot of our research is on breeding methods. So how do we go about breeding better crops faster, which is really important under the threats imposed by climate change. So we know that the crops we breed today are going to have to survive in the climate of tomorrow. So we do a lot of breeding for, for broad adaptation, resilience to lots of different diseases including various fungal diseases. We have varieties, they're grown as far south as Georgia and as far north as Ontario. My expertise is in quantitative genetics. So I'm bringing in more quantitative genetics approach into an applied breeding program using high density genome-wide information to make breeding decisions and to develop varieties faster. "That will show me a heat map of what I've harvested so far." We're working on science that directly leads to benefit of people. We feel that our service to the state of Virginia is by developing new varieties for farmers to plant that eventually lead to products that people consume.