The Federal Government has partnered with Crown Flour Mills as a way to expand Nigeria’s wheat production capacity. The partnership is an attempt to reduce the influx of importation and conserve foreign exchange.
This initiative will ensure that quality seeds and other agricultural inputs are provided to farmers to boost their yield, and modern technology for production. In addition, the company plans to introduce new findings of a research trial conducted on the cultivation of heat-tolerant wheat variety.
Wheat yields are increasingly being affected by global climate change, which is raising concerns about food security. Heat and drought can affect grain yield by reducing grain number, size, and weight. The optimum temperature for wheat development and grain filling ranges from 12 to 22˚C.
Heat stress ranging from 28 to 30˚C may alter the plant growth duration by reducing seed germination and maturity periods. Research has also shown that day and night temperatures around 30 and 25˚C respectively have severe effects on leaf development and productive tiller formation of wheat. In addition, a 1-2˚C increase in temperature reduces seed mass by accelerating seed growth rate but shortening the grain-filling periods in wheat. Heat stress also causes dehydration in plant tissues and restricts growth and development of plants. There is also a reduction in photosynthesis resulting from decreased leaf expansion and premature leaf senescence (the process of leaves growing old prematurely).
As a result, scientists have been pushed to attempt to develop heat-tolerant genotypes using the knowledge gained on the responses of wheat to heat stress. It requires the evaluation of genetic diversity for adaptation to climatic changes. Genetic engineering is also a consideration for alleviating the adverse effects of heat stress by improving the heat tolerance of the seeds. It is, however, a complex process of genetic modification, so other techniques can be used.
Some of such techniques include adoption of practices such as water conservation, the proper use of fertilization, and the timing and methods of sowing. A continuous supply of water is needed for sustaining grain size in wheat. In this case, mulching is a good option for maintaining optimum moisture. Wheat also requires a balanced supply of nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. However, the effects can be nullified if the temperatures do not remain at 24 and 17˚C at day and night respectively.
As research is still on-going in developing heat-resistant wheat varieties, it is best to educate farmers on best practices to alleviate the effects of heat on production levels.