Breeding for resilience to climate change is a daunting prospect. Crop and climate models tell us that global wheat yields are likely to decline as the climate warms, causing a significant risk to global food security. High temperatures are known to affect crop development yet breeding for tolerance to heat stress is difficult to achieve in field environments. We conducted an active warming study over two years to quantify the effects of heat stress on genetic variation of soft red winter (SRW) wheat (Triticum aestivum L.). Forty SRW cultivars and breeding lines were chosen based on marker genotypes at photoperiod sensitivity and reduced height loci. These genotypes were planted in a randomized complete block design replicated twice across two environments, ambient and artificially warmed. Average heading date occurred 5 days earlier in the warmed environment than in the ambient environment over both years (p ≤ 0.05). On average, grain yield was significantly reduced in the warmed environment by 211.41 kg/ha (p ≤ 0.05) or 4.84%, though we identified 13 genotypes with increased yield in response to warming in both years. Of these genotypes, eight had significantly increased N uptake while six showed significantly increased N utilization efficiency under warming. Under warming, genotypes with wild‐type alleles at the Rht‐D1 locus display significantly greater yields (p ≤ 0.01) and biomass (p ≤ 0.001) than genotypes with reduced height alleles. Of the 13 genotypes with higher (p ≤ 0.01) yields under warming, nine have the wild‐type allele at the Rht‐D1 locus in addition to being photoperiod insensitive. The next steps will be to validate these findings in other populations and to develop an efficient breeding/phenotyping scheme that will lead to more resilient cultivars.

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Published in Ecology and Evolution, v. 8, issue 23, p. 12090-12100.

© 2018 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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