Wheat’s DNA map discovered after 13 years

Wheat’s DNA map discovered after 13 years

"We are in a better position than ever to increase yield, breed plants with higher nutritional quality and create varieties that are adapted to climate changes thanks to the research we and the worldwide community are publishing".

The prestigious journal, Science, published the world's first detailed road map of the wheat genome this week, paving the way for faster precision breeding of improved varieties of what is a key global food crop.

More than 200 scientists in 20 countries collaborated to work out the results in 13 years, according to the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC).

"This could lead to higher incomes for farmers, better nutrition for world populations and new wheat varieties".

At MSU, Budak and colleagues in the Department of Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology recently sequenced a Montana barley cultivar, Hackett, and they're now working on sequencing a Montana winter wheat cultivar, Yellowstone.

Wheat has 16 billion base pairs - the building blocks of DNA - five times more than the humans. The article is titled "Shifting the limits in wheat research and breeding using a fully annotated reference genome". International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium, details the sequence of the plant's 21 chromosomes.

"It is anticipated that the world will need 60% more wheat by 2050 to meet global demand". It also serves as an important source of vitamins and minerals.

A key crop for food security, wheat is the staple food of more than a third of the global human population and accounts for nearly 20 percent of the total calories and protein consumed by humans worldwide, more than any other single food source, according to the FAO. "The sequence of the bread wheat genome has already had a positive effect on wheat improvement, which not only affects the science behind wheat breeding, but has a long-lasting positive outcome in regard to wheat producer productivity, profitability and, ultimately, livelihoods".

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"We believe that we can boost wheat improvement in the next few years in the same way that rice and maize were refined after their sequences were completed".

Actually sequencing the genome, however, proved to be a significant challenge.

Experts say the world needs more disease-resistant varieties and breeds that can grow with less water in a warmer environment.

To achieve this, scientists have been tinkering with wheat DNA to improve the health and production of this staple crop.

"With an estimated coverage of 94 percent of the genome and containing 107,891 high-confidence gene models, this assembly enabled the discovery of tissue- and developmental stage-related coexpression networks by providing a transcriptome atlas representing major stages of wheat development", the researchers conclude.

Sequencing the genome has been a huge challenge for scientists.

Professor Appels said it was like having a Google map for wheat. The second adds annotations and notes supplementing the overall findings, in an effort to assist breeders and other scientists in tweaking wheat.

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