Drought is the major environmental factor limiting wheat production worldwide. Developing novel cultivars with greater drought tolerance is the most viable solution to ensure sustainable agricultural production and alleviating threats to food-security. Here we established a core-collection of landraces and modern durum wheat cultivars (WheatME, n = 36), from the Middle East region (Jordan, Palestine and Israel) aiming at unlocking the genetic and morpho-physiological adaptation to semi-arid environment conditions. Interestingly, genetic analysis of the WheatME core-collection could not distinguish the landraces according to their country of origin. Field-based evaluation of the core-collection conducted across range of contrasting environmental conditions: Til-Palestine, Bet-Dagan-Israel and Irbid-Jordan with annual precipitation of 500 mm, 360 mm and 315 mm, respectively. The Til environment showed highest grain yield while the Irbid environment showed the lowest values. Analysis of variance showed a significant Genotype × Environment interaction for plant phenology traits (plant height and heading date) and productivity traits (1000-kernel weight, and grain yield). Principal component analysis showed three main cultivar groups: High yielding lines (modern durum cultivars, and landraces), tall late flowering landraces, and landraces with high grain weight. This knowledge could serve as basis for future breeding efforts to develop new elite cultivars adapted to the Mediterranean Basin's semi-arid conditions.
WheatME: Improve Wheat Production under Climate Changes in the Middle East Region
climate change, drought adaptation, genetic variation, Mediterranean Basin climate, landraces, wheat breeding