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expert reaction to sequencing and analysis of the wheat genome

A sequencing and analysis of the bread wheat genome, published in Nature, identified genes associated with crop productivity and offers a valuable source of information on this important crop and future wheat improvement.


Prof Denis Murphy, Head of the Life Sciences Research Unit at the University of Glamorgan, said:

“This is a landmark paper that outlines the genetic blueprint of one of the major global crops.  Bread wheat provides a vital staple food to billions of people across the world and is found in products ranging from chapattis and pita breads to biscuits and western-style leavened (raised) bread.

“However, bread is much more than a mere food.  Since its domestication about 10,000 years ago, bread has acquired considerable cultural significance among European and Near Eastern societies. From the Near East we have the Christian New Testament saying ‘man doth not live by bread alone’, and the prayer ‘give us this day our daily bread’. In both examples, the word ‘bread’ stands for food in general. The continued cultural significance of bread is apparent in the modern, albeit slightly dated, Anglo-American slang usages where bread and dough each mean money—that ultimate medium of contemporary material value.

“As we struggle to confront the increasing challenges of population increase, land degradation, and climate change that are contributing to widespread food insecurity, it will be vital to understand the underlying genetics of staple crops like wheat. 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.”


Prof Guy Poppy, Professor of Ecology at the University Of Southampton, said:

“This is an important body of work which has potential to help mankind on several fronts.

“Firstly, with the population having passed 7 billion and on its way to 8 billion, trying to increase the yields of crops like wheat is important to help deliver global food security.

“Secondly, with a changing climate and increasing extreme weather events, breeding crops such as wheat which can still yield under such varying environments will become important increasingly relevant and important.

“Finally, understanding those genes involved in delivering yield and/or resistant biotic and abiotic stresses should enable breeders to generate future wheat varieties which address all the pillars of food security such as stability, utilisation and access as well as the availability/productivity which has traditionally been how breeders have bred new varieties.”


Prof Martin Parry, Head of Plant Biology and Crop Science at Rothamsted Research said

“This exciting study unlocks the genomic information for wheat, the identification of novel genes and markers that will greatly facilitate our attempts to both understand and manipulate traits. 

“This will facilitate our attempts to increase the yield potential of wheat and deliver important government food security policy, for example through the BBSRC-funded  20:20 Wheat® programme at Rothamsted Research, which aims to increase wheat productivity to yield 20 tonnes per hectare in 20 years. “


‘Analysis of the breadwheat genome using whole-genome shotgun sequencing’ by Michael Bevan et al., published in Nature on Wednesday 28th November.

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