Hybrid Wheat Could Resist Future Threats

Can Advanced Breeding Make Wheat More Productive and Resilient?

Wheat Crop

The opportunity for innovation in wheat seed is great, especially when compared to other crops – truly a “blue sky” opportunity – and Bayer sees both urgent need and vast potential to drive the value of wheat on multiple fronts.

Wheat is one of the world’s most important food crops. Planted on more acres than anything else, wheat provides roughly 18% of the world’s total available calories. Securing global wheat harvests and maximizing the productivity and sustainability of wheat farming are critical to feeding a growing world.

What is the state of wheat right now?

Today, wheat production and supply are under threat from external factors like geopolitical events that impact trade and – especially in the longer-run – increasingly severe weather due to climate change. Wheat productivity varies, heavily dependent on the region in which it’s grown, ranging from roughly 30 bushels per acre yield in Australia to ~110 bushels per acre in Western Europe.


Genetic gains through traditional breeding currently improve annual yields by less than one percent on average. Will that be enough to supply enough wheat over time to meet global demands?


At Bayer, we think not. Only by advancing innovations in breeding, crop production and digitalization will we be able to improve wheat production levels enough to meet the needs of a growing world in a sustainable way. 

Wheat innovation is getting a boost

Wheat Expert

What would it take to make wheat more resilient and productive? Hybridization and hybrid varieties. 


Many of the most widespread food crops in the world, such as corn, sugarbeets, and canola, are hybrids in which one genetic line is crossed with another. Wheat hybrids have been slower to come to market due to technical challenges; however we have made great progress in leveraging advanced precision breeding technology to overcome these challenges. We expect hybrid wheat to demonstrate higher yields vs. varietal wheat. This effect (“heterosis”) could provide extra yields of 10-15%, depending on local conditions. Also, hybrid breeding is seen to enhance the yearly yield increases beyond varietal wheat, over time generating higher production. 


Hybrid wheat is not just a seed that yields a little more. It’s an entirely new technology that will bring new choices and benefits to wheat farmers. Hybrid wheat seed offers higher yields, better quality grain, more efficient use of inputs, improved resiliency and reduced environmental impact. These factors deliver downstream benefits too, including stability of supply, economic returns for the value chain and food security.


At Bayer, we’re putting hybrid wheat seed on track to become a full-scale reality in key regions, with the goal of bringing products to market by the end of the decade.

Farmers have more than a grain to gain

Hybrid wheat will bring new choices to wheat farmers, as well as significant benefits. This will enable greater return on investment, a more stable income for farmers and more reliable wheat supplies for global food systems.

But farmers don’t only need new seeds, they need support. In the future, we’re imagining an entirely new production system for wheat informed by data. Farmers can benefit from a comprehensive and fully integrated approach to management enabled by digital tools. Growers would get help selecting seeds, determining seeding rates, managing pests and more. They could even capitalize on post-harvest opportunities including sustainability measures, documentation and traceability.

State-of-the-art Wheat

Our leading R&D engine will make hybrid wheat a viable, sustainable and profitable reality. Recent technological breakthroughs, including digitally enabled genomic tools, advancements in breeding and AI, are paving the way for successful hybrid wheat development at a competitive cost.


As Bayer, we have a well-defined strategy in place to develop and bring hybrid wheat to market, accelerating our investment and time spent to convert this vision into a reality. 


In the US, where there are about 21 million hectares of wheat grown every year, we’re building on our strong WestBred germplasm portfolio and harnessing internal R&D to advance our seed offerings beyond varietal wheat. 


In Europe, where there are about 25 million hectares grown, Bayer has a strategic R&D collaboration with RAGT, the leading provider of winter wheat germplasm, which aims to deliver state-of-the-art hybrids for European wheat growers. 


With these advancements, Bayer is not just improving wheat production but setting a new standard for agricultural innovation. As we look to the future, the potential for hybrid wheat to transform the global food supply is immense, promising significant returns for investors and a more sustainable, secure food system for all.