* Wheat genome almost five times larger than human genome
* Data should speed up development of new wheat varieties
LONDON Nov 28 Scientists from Britain, Germany
and the United States have unlocked key components of the
genetic code for wheat, helping to create varieties that are
more productive and better able to cope with disease, drought
and other crop stresses.
The identification of around 96,000 wheat genes, and
insights into the links between them, comes just two years after
UK researchers published the raw data of the wheat genome.
"Since 1980, the rate of increase in wheat yields has
declined," said one of the project leaders, Keith Edwards of the
University of Bristol.
"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," he added.
The research was published in the journal Nature on
"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," said another of the project's leaders, Klaus
Mayer of Helmholtz-Zentrum Munchen.
"Because of this, we took a novel approach to analysing the
data and we have been successful in turning it into an
accessible and useful resource that will accelerate breeding and
the discovery of varieties with improved performance - for
example better disease resistance and stress tolerance."
Jan Dvorak of the University of California, Davis led the
U.S. contribution to the project.
The study was welcomed by other scientists.
"As we struggle to confront the increasing challenges of
population increase, land degradation and climate change that
are contributing to food insecurity, it will be vital to
understand the underlying genetics of staple crops like wheat,"
said Denis Murphy of the University of Glamorgan.
"The newly published wheat genome will be a vital resource
for researchers and crop breeders across the world in their
efforts to maintain global food supplies."
(Reporting by Nigel Hunt; Editing by Alison Birrane)