NASA experiments to grow wheat in space were the inspiration for University of Queensland scientists to develop the world’s first ‘speed breeding’ procedures here on planet Earth.

UQ Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) Senior Research Fellow Dr Lee Hickey said the NASA experiments involved using continuous light on wheat, which triggered early reproduction in the plants.

“By using speed breeding techniques in specially modified glasshouses we can grow six generations of wheat, chickpea and barley plants, and four generations of canola plants in a single year – as opposed to two or three generations in a regular glasshouse, or a single generation in the field,” Dr Hickey said. “Our experiments showed that the quality and yield of the plants grown under controlled climate and extended daylight conditions was as good, or sometimes better, than those grown in regular glasshouses.”

Dr Hickey said information on how to use speed breeding was increasingly in demand from other researchers and industry.