King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

Speed Breeding Field Crops in the Middle East

“Food security in the Middle East is extremely important in a region that imports up to 90% of its fresh food.”

Mark Tester, Professor of Bioscience at KAUST

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) is located on the Red Sea coast in Saudi Arabia. To address global challenges related to food, water, energy and the environment, KAUST conducts curiosity-driven and goal-oriented research. A new speed breeding program was started in late 2018 in their research greenhouse.

Problem:
In Saudi Arabia, growers must daily tackle challenging environmental conditions in the desert region. The KAUST plant science department works to develop plants with enhanced tolerance towards environmental stress while establishing sustainable agricultural systems for growers and field farmers. The KAUST speed breeding program will enable accelerated crop research and the breeding of new more resistant crop varieties with seed selection and improvement of genetics.

Solution:
Heliospectra’s fully adjustable ELIXIA LED grow lights have proven successful in accelerating harvest cycles and increasing yield in several speed breeding programs around the world. The choice of which lighting solution to install was easy. KAUST turned to Heliospectra to light up four of their eighteen plant growth rooms. Each plant growth room has its own, independent system for controlling temperature, irrigation, photoperiod, lighting and humidity and Heliospectra’s ELIXIA LED grow lights, reducing the time from seed to harvest.

Results:
Instead of the traditional method of breeding field crops in 4 to 5 months per cycle, KAUST can now speed breed in 6 to 8 weeks per cycle for many plant species. This is helping KAUST researchers to introgress traits from wild relatives as well as neo-domestication for the Center for Desert Agriculture’s program focused on species growing in highly saline conditions. The ELIXIA grow lights are also being used to manipulate light quality to greatly improve success rates of grafting for more difficult species.

“Speed breeding protocols with the integration of LED lighting and other proven technologies ensure propagation of new varieties with rapid advancements and much faster results.”  
Mark Tester, Professor of Bioscience at KAUST
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