A team at John Innes Center, working with international researchers, found a gene which could help increase wheat production in areas with dry soil conditions. Wheat crops are already being selectively bred to be shorter. The shorter height of the stalk means that more resources are being invested into grains, and also decreases the likelihood that the stalks are destroyed before harvest. Shorter wheat crops that are currently being used are more effective at growing in dry soils, with the disadvantage that they must be planted deeper into the soil, causing more of the plants never to sprout. The newly discovered Rht13 gene circumvents this issue, because the affected area is higher up the stem of the crop.
This is a really interesting discovery, given the current predicament with climate change. More frequent and more severe droughts and other natural disasters are happening, and ill continue to happen due to climate change. Droughts in particular threaten agricultural production. The discovery of this gene will help mitigate the impacts of climate change. Drought resistant crops are going to be essential in preventing wide-scale disasters in the future.