Scientists crack the bread wheat genome

Scientists finally crack the nearly impossible task of sequencing the bread wheat genome. At five times larger than the human genome, this was an arduous and complex undertaking. Bread wheat also has three sub-genomes with more than 85 per cent of the genome composed of repeated elements.

“Wheat is the most important and widely cultivated crop,” says the NRC’s Dr. Roman Szumski, vice-president, Life Sciences. “Genetic improvements are critical for meeting the current and future needs and for global food security.”

“Availability of this comprehensive genomics resource for this crop is exciting because wheat is very important to the world community,” says Dr. Raju Datla. “The scientific advances described in these articles represent a major step toward addressing the challenges and opportunities for the Canadian wheat industry.”

After 13 years of collaborative research involving more than 200 scientists from 73 research institutions in 20 countries, the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC) has finally deciphered the wheat genome code. The detailed description of the genome of bread wheat, the world’s most widely cultivated crop, was announced in detail in the international journal Science.

The NRC’s Raju Datla, Daoquan Xiang, Janet Condie and Yifang Tan contributed to this important research coordinated by IWGSC, which will pave the way to produce wheat varieties better adapted to climate challenges with higher yields, enhanced nutritional quality, and improved sustainability.

Wheat is the staple food of more than a third of the global human population and accounts for almost 20 per cent of the total calories and protein consumed by humans worldwide—more than any other single food source. It also serves as an important source of vitamins and minerals.

“Availability of this comprehensive genomics resource for this crop is exciting because wheat is very important to the world community,” says Dr. Raju Datla. “The scientific advances described in these articles represent a major step toward addressing the challenges and opportunities for the Canadian wheat industry.”

Wheat is the staple food of more than a third of the global human population and accounts for almost 20 per cent of the total calories and protein consumed by humans worldwide—more than any other single food source. It also serves as an important source of vitamins and minerals.

With the completion of the reference genome sequence, growers have new advanced tools to address these challenges at their disposal that will be able to more rapidly identify genes and regulatory elements underlying complex agronomic traits such as yield, grain quality, resistance to fungal diseases, tolerance to abiotic stress, and produce hardier wheat varieties.

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