Scientists at the University of Liverpool have deciphered the genetic code of wheat to help crop breeders increase yield and produce varieties that are better suited to a changing environment.
Wheat is one of the world's most important food crops, accounting for 20% of the world's calorific intake. Global wheat production, however, is under threat from climate change and an increase in demand from a growing human population.
The Liverpool team, at the University's Centre for Genomic Research, used new methods of sequencing DNA to decode the large wheat genome, which meant that scientists could achieve in one year what would have taken decades to do with previous methods. With a team of UK and international collaborators, they developed a novel way of analysing wheat's genetic information to provide breeders with the tools they need to apply the research to breeding programmes.
Funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and published in the journal, Nature, the analysis of more than 90,000 genes, will help wheat breeders produce crop that are better able to cope with disease, drought and other stresses that cause crop losses.
Professor Neil Hall, from the University's Institute of Integrative Biology and lead author of the research, said: "Wheat is a large and complex genome; arguably the most complex genome to be sequenced to date. Although the genome has not been fully decoded, we now have instrumentation that can read DNA hundreds of times faster than the systems that were used to sequence the human genome.
"This technology can now be applied to other genomes previously considered to be too difficult for detailed genetic study, such as sugar cane, an important biofuel crop."
In order to understand the variations of wheat genes and their relationship to each other, scientists, in collaboration with colleagues at the Institute of Bioinformatics and Systems Biolo
|Contact: Samantha Martin|
University of Liverpool