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Study seeks ways to develop tolerance to high, nighttime temperatures

Researchers have turned up the heat on wheat to investigate the point that higher nighttime temperatures may be to blame for significant yield and quality losses in the crop. The research team has planted wheat inside small tent structures that are equipped with heaters, fans, temperature sensors and a credit card-sized computer, so that they can control the amount of heat that the wheat is exposed to each night. Just before 8 p.m. each night, the researchers roll down the sides of the tent, fire up a generator and expose the wheat to a temperature that is approximately 4 degrees Celsius (or 7 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than the temperature outside of the structure. They are then able to test how the wheat inside the tent reacts to heat stress compared to wheat planted outside the tent. By 6 a.m. the next day, they roll the sides of the tent back up so the crop is exposed to the same daytime temperatures as the rest of the field. If what they believe is true, it could lead to improvements in breeding that would impact wheat grown around the world.

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