Wheat genome map may lead to higher yield, drought resistance

by World Grain Staff
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NESS ZIONA, ISRAEL — NRGene has mapped the complete Emmer wheat genome in one month, a feat that should accelerate global research into crop improvement, according to the Ness Ziona, Israel-based genomic data company.

“The repercussions of the mapping will be felt around the world,” said Assaf Distelfeld, Ph.D., a wheat geneticist at Tel Aviv University and the primary researcher on the project. “Scientists will now be able to identify key genes in the Emmer wheat and introduce them into commercial wheat via classical breeding, creating hardier varieties across environmental conditions, ultimately increasing the global food supply.”

Emmer wheat is the ancestor of cultivated wheat, he said. Wild Emmer wheat possesses genes absent from cultivated wheat, which enables the plant to tolerate severe environmental conditions and to better resist pests and diseases, according to NRGene.

 A genome map of Emmer wheat will allow scientists at universities, global research centers and seed companies to breed seeds with higher yields, better disease resistance and more adaptability to extreme growing environments such as drought or heat, Distelfeld said.

Researchers from Israel who participated in the project include those from Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University, Weizmann Institute of Science, University of Haifa, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the Volcani Institute for Agricultural Research in Israel. Other researchers came from the University of California, Davis, Sabanci University in Turkey, and IPK and MIPS research institutes in Germany.

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