Jabal: the new wheat scientists say can withstand extreme heat and drought
A new drought-tolerant variety of durum wheat has been created as part of an international breeding programme to boost climate resilience in the food system by increasing crop diversity.
The new wheat Jabal, which means “mountain” in Arabic, was developed by farmers and crop scientists by crossing a commercial durum wheat with a wild relative from an arid region of Syria, to create a new durum variety which can withstand drought.
Crop failures due to lost biodiversity and extreme weather events such as drought, extreme heat and floods have led to rising wheat prices and food insecurity in many parts of the world, exacerbated by Russia’s war on Ukraine, as both countries were major wheat exporters.
Wild relatives are considered the more resilient cousins of commercial crops, having evolved in nature to survive tough conditions such as extreme heat, drought, flooding and poor soils. Plant breeders are increasingly looking to wild and other forgotten varieties stored in seed banks for useful genetic diversity, which was sidelined in favor of yield, uniformity and profits after the Green Revolution.