Curtis Pozniak.  Credit:  Liam RichardsUsing bioinformatics tools and advanced software, a group of scientists have been able to sequence about 90 percent of the complex genome of bread wheat. 

The international consortium expects the results will help zero in on the breeding process for wheat, which is the most widely grown cereal worldwide.

Co-led by the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC), expects to complete the entire wheat genome within two years.  The wheat genome has 17 billion base pairs and is five times bigger than the human genome.

“This new wheat genome sequence is an important contribution to understanding the genetic blueprint of one of the world’s most important crops,” Curtis Pozniak, a plant scientists with the U of S Crop Development Centre in the College of Agriculture and Bioresources, said in a press release. “It will provide wheat researchers with an exciting new resource to identify the most influential genes for wheat adaptation, stress response, pest resistance and improved yield.”

Researchers will present their findings on the Chinese Spring variety of bread wheat at the Plant and Animal genome Conference in San Diego in January.

Said Pozniak, “The computational tools developed by NRGene, which use Illumina’s sequence data, combined with the sequencing expertise of IWGSC has generated a version of the wheat genome sequence that is better ordered than anything we have seen to date.  We are starting to get a better idea of the complex puzzle that is the wheat genome.”

According to the consortium, wheat productivity needs to increase by 1.6 percent each year to meet the demands of the projected population of 9.6 billion by 2050.

Contributing Editor/Science Writer