Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said: "This groundbreaking research is testament to the excellence of Britain's science base and demonstrates the capability we want to build on through the agri-tech strategy currently being developed.
"The findings will help us feed a growing global population by speeding up the development of new varieties of wheat able to cope with the challenges faced by farmers worldwide."
Wheat has a global output of over 680million tonnes; bread wheat (Triticum aestivum) provides over a fifth of the calories that we eat. As the global population and the demand for wheat rises, major efforts are underway to improve productivity by producing varieties that can withstand adverse weather and disease, and that provide greater yields. However, until now the very large size and complexity of the genome have been significant barriers to crop improvement.
Klaus Mayer said: "Bread 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."
"Because of this, we took a novel approach to analysing the data, and we have been successful in turning it into accessible and useful resources that will accelerate breeding and the discovery of varieties with improved performance - for example better disease resistance and stress tolerance."
Breeders and researchers are now able to select plants with desirable combinations of genes using the genetic landmarks in the wheat genome. These landmarks can be incorporated directly into breeding programmes to make more reliable and deliberate choices of wheat varieties that exhibit specific traits.
Professor Mike Bevan said: "
|Contact: Rob Dawson|
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council