A BREAKTHROUGH in wheat research has raised hopes against disease and produce higher yields in the pile of crops that feed more than a third of the world's population.
In the course of 13 years, a large international research collaboration of more than 200 scientists from 73 research institutes in 20 countries has worked on the production of a comprehensive map of a wheat genome; that will pave the way for more resilient and nutritious wheat varieties.
"The publication of the wheat spring genome is the culmination of the work of many individuals who have come together under the banner of the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium to do what was considered impossible," said the executive director of the project, Kellye Eversole.
The wheat genome is actually five times larger than the human genome, with over 100,000 genes and more than four million molecular markers already identified and positioned over 21 chromosomes in three subgenomes. The findings of the consortium describe more than 94% of the genome of Chinese Spring, a variety of bread wheat (Triticum aestivum), the most cultivated crop in the world – but all wheat varieties will benefit from the know-how.
Wheat productivity should increase by 1.6% per year to meet the requirements of a projected world population of 9.6 billion by 2050. And to preserve biodiversity, water and food resources, the world needs to produce more cultivate existing cultivated land instead of more land.
Kostya Kanyuka, who represented with bio-computer scientist Rob King Rothamsted Research in the IWGSC, explained how a continuous and fully annotated sequence for each of the 21 wheat chromosomes is of the utmost importance: "This will enormously accelerate our efforts on the identification of important wheat genes, including genes that could contribute to the control of major fungal diseases, which will also be enormously and immediately beneficial to wheat breeders, thus accelerating the development of new elite varieties. "