Scientists were surprised after the genomes of 16 wheat species were sequenced.
One of the world’s most cultivated and oldest crops, wheat is a genetically strange plant with 10 times the amount of fertility genes than other cereal crops.
While putting the building blocks of wheat on paper during the historical study, scientists found that the fertility genes in wheat were much more varied than expected.
This discovery opens the hope that it is easier than previously thought to grow varieties of wheat that are less likely to self-pollinate.
Wheat’s love for self-pollination has been a major obstacle on the way to growing more abundant and difficult wheat varieties, known as hybrids.
University of Western Australian scientists Ian Small and Joanna Melonic contributed to the international study led by the University of Saskatchewan in Canada that works specifically on genes that control pollen fertility.
Professor Small said the team wasn’t expecting to find what they did across the family of genes known as the Reproduction Genes (Rfl).
“It was an amazing amount of difference,” he said.
“Even among the closely related wheat varieties.”
The sixteen sequences came from wheat programs across the world.
Dr Melonik said the analysis was an important step in speeding up several hybrid breeding programs around the world in an effort to improve wheat production.
She said, “Wheat is a staple food and any improvements we can make to increase its productivity and quality will be important because the world’s population is growing rapidly and food security becomes an increasing problem.”
Mapping the wheat genome has been a long and difficult task for scientists, but necessary, as it is estimated that global demand for wheat will increase by 50 percent by 2050.
The successful sequencing will enable the crossing of newer and better hybrid wheat, Curtis Pozniak, a senior researcher at the University of Saskatchewan, said.
studying, Multiple wheat genomes reveal global variation in modern breeding (Work title), to be published in the journal nature.
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