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Can 'Superwheat' Rescue British Farmers?

A new strain of "superwheat" developed at England's National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) may help increase crop yields across Britain. (Image credit: <a href=""> Igor Strukov</a> | <a href=""></a>)

When British farmers are struggling to increase their yields of wheat, should they rely on genetically modified foods or imported (gasp!) French grains?

No: Superwheat to the rescue!

The National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB), based in Cambridge, has announced the development of a robust new strain of wheat, the BBC reports.

The grain can increase crop yields by 30 percent, while also boosting wheat's drought tolerance and disease resistance.

Though the new strain of wheat won't be available for a few years, British farmers and food manufacturers heralded the announcement.

Wet weather in 2012 lowered crop yields and forced the British to import wheat for the first time in decades. As a result, iconic brands like Weetabix cereals have recently had to scale back production.

Though genetically modified foods have been touted as a potential solution to feeding a hungry world, NIAB researchers didn't use genetic engineering to create their superwheat.

Instead, the researchers relied on ancient grasses, cross-breeding them with existing strains of wheat, the Daily Mail reports.

"It is about finding novel characteristics from the original ancestors of wheat and breeding them to make them as productive and resilient as possible," Tina Barsby, director of NIAB, told the Daily Mail.

"You can sometimes become too focused on one technology, like GM [genetic modification], and not look at other techniques that can bring you similar success," Barsby said.

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Marc Lallanilla
Marc Lallanilla has been a science writer and health editor at and a producer with His freelance writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and Marc has a Master's degree in environmental planning from the University of California, Berkeley, and an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin.