Researchers at Aarhus University, Denmark and Nottingham Trent University, UK claim the wheat can be bred naturally to produce high levels of phytase.
UK company, Plant Bioscience Limited (PBL), funded the research.
"Aiming for high phytase activity in wheat grains has been a key research target for many years," said Dr Henrik Brinch-Pedersen, group leader at Aarhus University's Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics.
He said: "Reaching it was a milestone, but seeing that it works well in animal feeding is extremely satisfactory.”
Dr Emily Burton, head of the Poultry Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University’s School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences, told us: “The inside of a chicken is such a hostile environment to an enzyme that it seems amazing that the plant breeders have actually managed to produce a wheat that can withstand all those things.”
Scientists from the department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Aarhus University found the specific genes that are important to phytase activity in cereals. Then they found a mutant in which the phytase genes are expressed more powerfully than in ordinary cereals, resulting in increased phytase activity.
The unique wheat type, called HIGHPHY, was optimized and patented in cooperation with PBL.
Scientist from Nottingham Trent University’s poultry nutrition research team then carried out trials, involving 180 chickens, comparing the new source of phytase to traditional poultry diet formulations.
The trial revealed the inclusion of high phytase wheat in the feed could be a highly effective way of unlocking the phosphorus in the diet for use by the animal.
The work was published in Animal: An International Journal of Animal Bioscience.
The next step is for further animal feed trials to take place while plant breeders are testing the trait so it can be incorporated into commercial varieties. This means that it will be able to better compete with what’s currently on the market. PBL is working with plant breeders in the UK and Germany.
“In terms of getting a commercial product that is available in scale to feed thousands of tons it will take time. That is the nature of things with cereal crops,” said MD of PBL, Dr Jan Chojecki.
He reckoned the wheat could be available commercially in around five years.
Source: Animal, 2017
Title: P and Ca digestibility is increased in broiler diets supplemented with the high-phytase HIGHPHY wheat
Published online ahead of print: DOI: 10.1017/S1751731117000544
Authors: D. Scholey, E. Burton, N. Morgan, C. Sanni, C. K. Madsen, G. Dionisio, H. Brinch-Pedersen.