Cracked Wheat: Scientists Make Inroads Into Wheat Genome

Cracked Wheat: Scientists Make Inroads Into Wheat Genome

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A consortium of scientists announced they had made major progress in deciphering the genome of bread wheat, a vital crop whose DNA is notoriously complex. Publishing in the journal Nature, they said they had analysed between 94,000 and 96,000 genes in bread wheat (Triticum aestivum). The plant’s genome is nearly five times as big as humans’, they said.

The genes exist in what is in fact a triple genome, reflecting bread wheat’s legacy as the 8,000-year-old offspring of three species of grasses. Gene sequencing will help plant breeders in their search for strains that offer higher yields and are better able to tolerate floods, droughts and salty soils, the researchers said. Wheat today accounts for a fifth of the world’s calorific intake, and this importance can only grow, given the world’s rising population and the impact of climate change on food production, say experts.

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