Designing future wheat hero

Designing future wheat (2017 - 2023)

This research programme has now concluded. Find out about the current Research Programme - Delivering Sustainable Wheat.

Programme mission.

Designing Future Wheat (DFW) is a collaborative programme involving world-leading UK institutions to ensure a robust wheat crop for the future to support a growing population.


Addressing the grand challenge of feeding a growing population against a background of changing global climatic conditions requires the mobilisation of national and international wheat expertise around key research targets. The proposed Designing Future Wheat programme co-ordinates expertise in BBSRC institutes with complementary university programmes around four linked work packages: ‘Increased efficiency and sustainability’, led by Malcolm Hawkesford at Rothamsted Research; ‘Added value and resilience’, led by Cristobal Uauy at the John Innes Centre; ‘Germplasm’, led by Simon Griffiths at the John Innes Centre; and ‘Data access and analysis‘, led by Rob Davey here at the Earlham Institute.

Increasing yield must be achieved through increased efficiency and sustainability of the use of fertilisers and water. Increasing yield and efficiency in both high and lower yielding environments, in the present and in future climates, will require genetic improvements to wheat varieties as well as breeding in tolerance to stresses that a wheat crop will experience, such as drought. This is not a simple task and requires long-term wide-scale funding to bring UK experts together with international scientists. However, it’s not sufficient to simply work together in the old ways. We need a new approach to how scientific data about wheat is generated and shared, and how this can influence the crop research of the future.


Improved wheat through improved data.

Earlham Institute is responsible for the ‘Data access and analysis’ work package, which will work to advance the data landscape for wheat comparative analysis through new sequencing experiments, and the development of an informatics infrastructure to provide a comprehensive, federated, and open data portal.

We will generate the underpinning data, and subsequently develop the tools and resources, to form the UK national node of the global Wheat Information System, in order to connect with and bridge the gaps in current applications. Enabling computational analysis and interrogation for breeders and biologists, alongside the capture, curation and integration of reference data, will promote a ‘genomic supermarket’ to federate the wheat datasets required for large scale complex comparative analyses, and the dissemination of these data back to the research community. All data within DFW will be freely available with no restrictions.


John Innes Centre logoRothamsted logo

Key projects.

Delivering impact.

Wheat research produces a huge amount of data because it has a very large and complicated genome. Doing science with wheat can be difficult if the data are not easy to work with, so this programme will look to make sure researchers can access this data openly and easily, as well as being able to make their own data available in this way. This will provide both scientists and industry professionals with the tools and infrastructures they need to improve yields and resistance in wheat for the future.


Explore our strategic programmes.