Copper Absorption in Wheat, Increase in Yield

With global food insecurity on the rise, there is a demand for high-yielding grain crops and the land to grow them. Marginal lands provide an opportunity to increase yield, but these soils are often deficient in essential mineral nutrients such as copper. For decades, researchers have known that a deficiency in copper in alkaline, sandy, or organic soils compromises plant fertility and reduces grain and seed yield. This is true in wheat, one of the most important staple food crops in the world. The mechanisms in wheat—of how copper is taken up and delivered to reproductive organs and how transport processes are regulated—are not well understood.

Olena K. Vatamaniuk, School of Integrative Plant Science, Soil and Crop Sciences, and Mark E. Sorrells, School of Integrative Plant Science, Plant Breeding and Genetics, are working to better understand what is required for the uptake and delivery of copper in wheat. Vatamaniuk’s group has recently discovered that the functions of two proteins (AtCITF1 and AtSPL7) are integral to copper uptake and delivery to reproductive organs in a model species, Arabidopsis thaliana. Now, Vatamaniuk and Sorrells are using interdisciplinary approaches to provide fundamental insights into the function of the SPL7 pathway in coordinating copper transport processes and fertility in wheat and its proxy, Brachypodium. More broadly, they are establishing the physiological, molecular, and genetic mechanisms underlying copper uptake, delivery to reproductive organs, and fertility. This new knowledge will aid the improvement of cereals productivity and grain yield on marginal soils and soils currently in cultivation.

This work is supported by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Award Number: 2018-67013-27418

Cornell Researchers

Funding Received

$500 Thousand spanning 3 years

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