The wildly complex wheat genome sequence has been cracked

A breakthrough which was once thought impossible is now a reality with the first detailed wheat genome mapping complete.

The wheat genome sequence was solved after 13 years and a worldwide collaboration of more than 200 scientist and 73 researchers.

This breakthrough is vital for international food security in order to meet the demands of a population predicted to reach 9.6 billion by 2050.

The international Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC) published a detailed description of the bread wheat genome in the Journal of Science.

A genome is like a roadmap, detailing all of the essential information needed for an organism to survive.

The wheat genome is five times larger and far more complex than the human genome.

Australian scientist and Agriculture Victoria honorary research fellow, Professor Rudi Appels was a leading scientist in the decoding of the world’s most widely grown crop.

He said when he joined the IWGSC more than a decade ago, many researchers thought wheat sequencing was “impossible”.

Now farmers and scientists can identify the genes and factors responsible for particular traits.

These traits include: wheat yields; grain quality; disease resistance; and tolerance to environmental stress.

Professor Josquin Tibbits is also a researcher at Agriculture Victoria and said the breakthrough could be particularly beneficial the Australian industry, especially when it comes to managing drought.

“It will give more certainty to farmers when investing in growing wheat varieties built to withstand the Australian climate,” he said.

The wheat industry is worth over $6 billion per year to the Australian economy.

The successful mapping of the wheat genome is an historic event and the positive impact of this revolutionary scientific breakthrough will be long lived.

Andrea Martinello

Andrea Martinello

Andrea is the Community & Engagement Officer at the National Farmers' Federation.

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