Small grain cereals are the most widely grown annual crops worldwide. Wheat and barley are the two major cereals with cultivated surfaces of 230 and 60 Mha, respectively. Cereal grains have a huge range of utilization: wheat represents ~19% of human calorie intake, up to 50% in some countries. It is processed in many different products (breads, biscuits, breakfast, beer…). It is also widely used for ruminant and monogastric feed, and by biofuel (ethanol) or bio-material industry.
Cereal production dramatically increased after the green revolution (1960-1990), but the production rate is now decreasing (see http://www.wheatinitiative.org/about-wheat/factsheets-infographics). The reason is a slight decrease of the surface cultivated with cereals because of competition with other crops or non-agricultural uses. Another reason is a slower yield progression, partially attributed to climate change. To face the challenge of food security for an ever growing world population, cereal yield must be pushed upward, but not at any cost. Indeed, intensive production systems using fertilizers and pesticides are increasingly questioned for their negative impacts on the environment or human health. For example, nitrates in fresh or marine water cause eutrophication and pesticide residues may have carcinogenic effect or act as endocrine disruptors. Consumers and citizen are also more and more demanding for sustainable farming systems and safe products.
Plant breeding is often presented as a sustainable way to produce more and better. Recent developments in genomics, genotyping, phenotyping and breeding methodologies open new perspectives to design future varieties, with higher performance or resilience, targeting more specific conditions and utilizations, and more environmentally friendly.
The cereal section congress of EUCARPIA (www.eucarpia.org) is the opportunity to learn about recent developments in genetics and cereal breeding, from basic research on quantitative genetics, breeding methodology, crop modelling, genome organization and evolution to applied research on genome editing, QTL detection for marker assisted selection, plant-micro-organism interaction, biotic and abiotic stresses.
The 2nd edition of the International Wheat Innovation Workshop (IWIW2) is the opportunity to present complementary results obtained in major wheat programmes and pave the way for future collaborations and funding opportunities.