Wheat is grown on more than 531 million acres around the world and produces nearly 700 million tons of food and feed each year. Scientists are working to create a full genetic map of the plant in order to improve its resistance to diseases and drought as well as improve its food yield. (Photo credit: Eduard Akhunov) Several Kansas State University researchers were essential in helping scientists assemble a draft of a genetic blueprint of bread wheat, also known as common wheat. The food plant is grown on more than 531 million acres around the world and produces nearly 700 million tons of food each year.
The International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium, which also includes faculty at Kansas State University, recently published a chromosome-based draft sequence of wheat's genetic code, which is called a genome. "A chromosome-based draft sequence of the hexaploid bread wheat genome" is one of four papers about the wheat genome that appear in the journal Science.
The genetic blueprint is an invaluable resource to plant science researchers and breeders, said Eduard Akhunov, associate professor of plant pathology and a collaborator with the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium.
"For the first time, they have at their disposal a set of tools enabling them to rapidly locate specific genes on individual wheat chromosomes throughout the genome," Akhunov said. "This resource is invaluable for identifying those genes that control complex traits, such as yield, grain quality, disease, pest resistance and 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."
Although a draft, the sequence provides new insight into the plant's structure, organization, evolution and genetic complexity.
"This is a very significant advancement for wheat genetics and breeding community," Akhunov said. "The wheat genome sequence provides a foundation for studying genetic variation and understanding how changes in the genetic code can impact important agronomic traits. In our lab we use this sequence to create a catalog of single base changes in DNA sequence of a worldwide sample of wheat lines to get insights into the evolution and origin of wheat genetic diversity."
Akhunov, Shichen Wang, a programmer and bioinformatics scientist in plant pathology, and Jesse Poland, assistant professor of plant pathology, collaborated with the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium to order genes along the wheat chromosomes.