Scientists to sequence DNA of British wheat varieties

Feb 11, 2009

Scientists at the University of Liverpool have been awarded £1.7 million to decode the genome of wheat, in order to help farmers increase the yield of British wheat varieties.

Bread wheat, with an estimated world harvest of more than 550 million tonnes, is one of the most important food crops in the world and is worth more than £2 billion to the UK's agricultural industry. Wheat production world-wide, however, is now under threat from climate change and an increase in demand from a growing human population.

Wheat breeders have few genetic tools to help them in selecting key agricultural traits for breeding and do not always know the genes responsible for the trait they need. Scientists, in collaboration with the University of Bristol and the John Innes Centre, will analyse the genome of five varieties of wheat using new DNA sequencing technology to generate tools to help breeders select traits, such as high productivity, for their crop. The research will highlight natural genetic variation between wheat types to significantly speed up current breeding programmes.

Professor Neil Hall and Dr Anthony Hall, from the University's School of Biological Sciences, will lead the genome sequencing, which will take approximately a year to complete.

Professor Hall said: "New DNA sequencing technology can read 500 million separate letters of DNA in a single day - hundreds of times faster than the systems that were used to sequence the human genome. The wheat genome is more than five times larger than the human genome and so this is one of the most ambitious DNA sequencing projects undertaken to date."

Dr Hall added: "Sequencing wheat varieties, along with new developments in our understanding of how genes work together, will allow us to identify variation in gene networks involved in important agricultural traits such as disease resistance, drought tolerance and yield. The tools generated will allow us to apply our knowledge of natural variations in the genome to traditional crop breeding."

Source: University of Liverpool

Explore further: Sierra Leone chimpanzees return home after Ebola retreat

Related Stories

Devices or divisive: Mobile technology in the classroom

8 hours ago

Little is known about how new mobile technologies affect students' development of non-cognitive skills such as empathy, self-control, problem solving, and teamwork. Two Boston College researchers say it's ...

Recommended for you

Rafts on the cell membrane

8 minutes ago

Tiny structures made of lipid molecules and proteins have been believed to wander within the membrane of a cell, much like rafts on the water. This "raft hypothesis" has been widely accepted, but now scientists ...

Researchers explain skin fusion at a molecular level

10 minutes ago

Scientists from the Goethe University (GU) Frankfurt, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) Heidelberg and the University of Zurich explain skin fusion at a molecular level and pinpoint the specific ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.