30 Nov 2012

Wheat genetic code identified

6:04 am on 30 November 2012

Scientists have identified key parts of the complex genetic code of wheat, which could help improve global food security.

Writing in the journal Nature, the researchers say the bread wheat genome is nearly five times larger than the human one.

A BBC report says the team hopes the data will accelerate the development of varieties more resilient to stresses, such as disease and drought, that cause crops to fail.

In 2011, global output of bread wheat was 681 million tonnes - the third most-produced food crop (behind maize and rice). It accounted for about 20% of the calories consumed by the world's population.

The study - involving British, United States and German scientists - has built on the 2010 publication of a draft genome, resulting in the development of tools that can decipher the genetic code of segments of the genome.

The researchers say that breeders and researchers will now be able to select plants with desirable combinations of genes using the genetic landmarks (known as markers) identified in the study.