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Improved wheat varieties on horizon to address drought, flooding pests and stresses

| January 28, 2015

After years of research efforts worldwide, researchers have finally identified a draft sequence of the bread wheat genome – an accomplishment that will lead to more robust and better wheat varieties in the years ahead.

“It is only when we know the wheat DNA – when we have sequenced the wheat genome – that we are able to cultivate new wheat varieties in a more efficient manner,” Professor Odd-Arne Olsen, head of the genome research team at The Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), explained.

The wheat genome is the largest and most complex genome of all the grains, and efforts to identify it has been considerably more difficult than, for example, rice and corn.

“To put it in perspective, the wheat genome is six times larger than the human genome,” said Olsen. “This has made mapping the DNA extra complicated. We have had to develop methods that allow us to separate DNA from three different sets of genetic material.”

Now, with a chromosome-based full sequence in hand, plant breeders will have high quality tools at their disposal to accelerate breeding programs and to identify how genes control complex traits such as yield, grain quality, disease, pest resistance, or abiotic stress tolerance. They will be able to produce a new generation of wheat varieties with higher yields and improved sustainability to meet the demands of a growing world population in a changing environment.

Recently, NMBU researchers have co-authored three of five articles on the breakthrough in wheat genome research in the prestigious academic journal Science.

Read full, original article: Breakthrough will help increase food security with better, more robust wheat varieties

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