STELLENBOSCH, SOUTH AFRICA — The Department of Science and Technology (DST) in the Republic of South Africa has invested nearly $1.1 million in a multi-consortium wheat breeding program designed to improve wheat yields in South Africa. Through the program, researchers will look for ways to improve resistance to abiotic stresses, such as drought and extreme temperatures, the DST said.

“The platform is an initiative by government and the private sector to perform adequate research and development toward developing new cultivars able to adapt to the changing environment,” the DST said.

The creation of the program is part of the implementation of the South African Bio-economy Strategy, and partners include Grain SA, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the Agricultural Research Council and Stellenbosch University.

Over the past three years the wheat breeding platform has received approximately $1.4 million from the Winter Cereal Trust.

“The platform uses agricultural initiatives as a means to contribute to the alleviation of poverty, unemployment and inequality, while ensuring food security and enhanced nutrition,” the DST said, adding that wheat is the second most important grain crop produced in South Africa, and plays an important role in national food security. South Africa currently imports about 46% of its wheat to meet domestic demand.

“The platform is expected to ultimately move South Africa from being a net importer of wheat to producing adequate volumes to meet the demand and ultimately export surpluses,” the DST said.