(Reuters) - Scientists from Britain, Germany
and the United States have unlocked key components of the genetic code
for wheat, helping to create varieties that are more productive and
better able to cope with disease, drought and other crop stresses.
The identification of around
96,000 wheat genes, and insights into the links between them, comes just
two years after UK researchers published the raw data of the wheat
"Since 1980, the rate of
increase in wheat yields has declined," said one of the project leaders,
Keith Edwards of the University of Bristol.
of the wheat genome sequence data provides a new and very powerful
foundation for breeding future generations of wheat more quickly and
more precisely, to help address this problem," he added.
The research was published in the journal Nature on Wednesday.
wheat is a complex hybrid, composed of the complete genomes of three
closely related grasses. This makes it very complex and large; in total
it is almost five times bigger than the human genome," said another of
the project's leaders, Klaus Mayer of Helmholtz-Zentrum Munchen.
of this, we took a novel approach to analyzing the data and we have
been successful in turning it into an accessible and useful resource
that will accelerate breeding and the discovery of varieties with
improved performance - for example better disease resistance and stress
Jan Dvorak of the University of California, Davis led the U.S. contribution to the project.
The study was welcomed by other scientists.
we struggle to confront the increasing challenges of population
increase, land degradation and climate change that are contributing to
food insecurity, it will be vital to understand the underlying genetics
of staple crops like wheat," said Denis Murphy of the University of
"The newly published
wheat genome will be a vital resource for researchers and crop breeders
across the world in their efforts to maintain global food supplies."