Bread wheat’s genetic code cracked at last – Boisar Marathi News

Bread wheat’s genetic code cracked at last

Mapping the genome means scientists can identify genes that provide higher yield, better quality, or make it palatable to those who are gluten intolerant


It took the best scientific minds from 20 nations, including India, to scale what is considered as the “Mt Everest of the genome world”. After 13 years of painstaking effort, a global community of scientists has decoded the gigantic bread wheat genome (Chinese Spring variety), a feat that breeders hope will help address productivity and climate resilience issues, especially in India, which is world’s second-largest producer of the grain.

The group of scientists known as the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium published in August 2018 a detailed description of the genome of bread wheat, the world’s most widely cultivated crop.

Wheat is the staple food of more than a third of the global human population and accounts for almost 20 percent of the total calories and protein consumed by humans worldwide, more than any other single food source. It also serves as an important source of vitamins and minerals.

“The high-quality reference genome generated by the global community will help in better understanding of the basic biology of wheat plant and identifying genes underlying important traits,” said Kuldeep Singh, senior molecular geneticist and director of National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources.

This achievement will enhance wheat breeders’ toolbox and pave way for development of wheat varieties with higher yields, enhanced nutritional quality, improved sustainability and varieties that are better adapted to climate challenges, said Singh.

Singh (formerly with the Punjab Agricultural University), Nagendra Singh at ICAR-National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology, New Delhi and J P Khurana at the University of Delhi, spearheaded the Indian effort (comprising 18 scientists) to sequence chromosome 2A of the genome. Singh explained that major challenges to wheat productivity in future in India will pertain to enhancing yields by 2050 and accelerating the breeding of climate-resilient wheat varieties.

The other aspect is developing varieties which, during their growth period, can tolerate higher and more erratic temperatures due to climate change, are resistant to emerging diseases and insects, require less water and inputs including major and micronutrients and are nutritionally richer.

Ozone pollution

In addition, ozone pollution is also identified as a “significant challenge” to global food production, including wheat growth, in a recent multinational study led researchers from the UK-based Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH).

For the state with the highest wheat production, Uttar Pradesh, predicted percentage yield losses due to ozone were in the range of 15 percent to 20 percent in most of the wheat-producing areas. “The area of highest ozone impacts on wheat production coincided with an area with high levels of heat stress too,” CEH’s Katrina Sharps said.

The authors identified practical, short-term actions such as breeding new varieties that are resilient to ozone, better timing of irrigation and the development of non-toxic agrochemicals, that farmers and growers can take to improve yield.

For India, which has a robust wheat breeding programme and more than 500 varieties, the genome sequence adds precision to breeding.