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‘10+ Genome’ comes up with 15 improved wheat varieties

ISLAMABAD: In a landmark discovery for global wheat production, an international team led by the University of Saskatchewan and scientists from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) has sequenced the genomes for 15 wheat varieties representing breeding programmes around the world.

The latest discovery has enabled scientists and breeders to much more quickly identify influential genes for improved yield, pest resistance and other important crop traits.

The head of global wheat improvement at CIMMYT, Ravi Singh says these discoveries paved the way to identify genes responsible for traits wheat farmers in partner countries are demanding, such as high-yield, tolerance to heat and drought, and resistance to insect pests.

The research results, just published provide the most comprehensive atlas of wheat genome sequences ever reported. The ‘10+Genome’ project collaboration involved more than 95 scientists from universities and institutes in Australia, Canada, Germany, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The ‘10+ Genome’ research represents the start of a larger effort to generate thousands of genome sequences of wheat, including genetic material brought in from wheat’s wild relatives.

One of the world’s most cultivated cereal crops, wheat plays an important role in global food security, providing about 20 per cent of human caloric intake globally. It’s estimated that wheat production must increase by more than 50pc by 2050 to meet an increasing global demand.

The research findings build on the first complete wheat genome reference map published by the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium in 2018, increasing the number of wheat genome sequences almost ten-fold, and allowing scientists to identify genetic differences between wheat varieties.

“It’s like finding the missing pieces for your favourite puzzle that you have been working on for decades,” said project leader Curtis Pozniak, wheat breeder and director of the USask Crop Development Centre (CDC). “By having many complete gene assemblies available, we can now help solve the huge puzzle that is the massive wheat pan-genome and usher in a new era for wheat discovery and breeding,” he said.

Scientific groups across the global wheat community are expected to use the new resource to identify genes linked to in-demand traits, which will accelerate breeding efficiency.

“This resource enables us to more precisely control breeding to increase the rate of wheat improvement for the benefit of farmers and consumers, and meet future food demands,” Pozniak said.

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