Genetic Code of Wheat Mapped Out


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The genetic code of wheat, which is five times larger than the human genome, has been mapped out by scientists for the first time.

The genome sequence is expected to help scientists develop new wheat strains which are more resilient to harsh conditions and disease and deliver higher yields.


Scientists hope the breakthrough will ease pressure on the world’s food supply and help stabilize rising food prices.


Wheat is one of the world’s most important food crops, with an annual global harvest of more than 550 million tonnes. The cereal is worth more than £2 billion to Britain’s agricultural industry each year.

The new genome data will give breeders and scientists access to 95 per cent of all wheat genes.

Professor Keith Edwards, one of the researchers from the University of Bristol who worked on the blueprint, said the size and complexity of the wheat genome made it a “huge challenge for scientists”.

Further work is needed to produce a finished copy of the genome, with the data assembled into chromosomes.

Dr Anthony Hall, another member of the team from the University of Liverpool, said: “Wheat production is already under pressure with failures in the Russian harvest driving up world wheat prices. It is predicted that within the next 40 years world food production will need to be increased by 50 per cent.

“Developing new, low input, high-yielding varieties of wheat will be fundamental to meeting these goals.  Using this new DNA data we will identify variation in gene networks involved in important agricultural traits such as disease resistance, drought tolerance and yield.”

The project was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

David Willetts, the Universities and Science Minister, said: “This is an outstanding world class contribution by the UK to the global effort to completely map the wheat genome.”

The information has been made publicly available via the EMBL European genetic database.





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