Hybrid wheat has been the focus of research for breeders and seed companies since the 1950s. By the mid-2020s, chemical company BASF is looking at releasing its first hybrid wheat.
“Hybrid wheat is a long-term commitment for BASF,” says Gustavo Gonzalez, director of the company’s global wheat crop strategy. “The first hybrid will be the first generation in an extensive pipeline.”
Hybrid wheat in research is showing about a 7% to 10% increase in yield, and that will continue to increase over time, Gonzalez adds.
BASF wheat research has focused on hard red winter and hard red spring wheats. Its flagship research location is based in Lincoln, Neb., where scientists are working on winter wheat. In Sabin, scientists are working with spring wheat.
Giving a boost to BASF wheat research is a recent agreement with PowerPollen, an Iowa-based ag tech company, to use its patented pollen preservation and application technology to improve cross-pollination. PowerPollen’s technology has been used in corn applications and has been shown to increase yield as much as 44% in commercial hybrid corn seed production fields, according to the company.
Gonzalez says the PowerPollen technology essentially provides on-demand pollination.
“With wheat, there is a variability in pollination. After five minutes of shedding, there is a dramatic decreasing of pollen” he says.
Bottomline, the window for pollination is narrow.
With PowerPollen, the company has figured out how to collect, store and preserve pollen and then release it on the crop when pollination is most effective. Currently, BASF is working with PowerPollen on methods to release pollen onto fields, Gonzalez adds.