"With markers, breeders can track the genetic makeup of plants when new varieties are being bred. Plants lacking the desired traits can be eliminated more efficiently, and those with desired characteristic identified more quickly, speeding up the production of new varieties from a far wider range of wheat varieties, including wild relatives that have many useful traits such as disease and stress tolerance."
The researchers made this rapid progress by developing a new strategy that compared wheat's genetic sequences to known grass genes (for example from rice and barley), and also comparing these to the simpler genomes of wheat's ancestors. This revealed a highly dynamic genome that has undergone genetic loss as a consequence of domestication.
Professor Keith Edwards commented: "Since 1980, the rate of increase in wheat yields has declined. Analysis 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."
The analysis is already being used in research funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) to introduce a wider range of genetic variation into commercial cultivars and make use of wild wheat's untapped genetic reservoirs that could help improve tolerance to diseases and the effects of climate change. The wheat breeding community and seed suppliers have welcomed the research.
|Contact: Rob Dawson|
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council