Agriculturists welcome news that wheat’s genetic code cracked

U.S. and international wheat breeders said Friday publication of the gene map of wheat could eventually help in developing beneficial new varieties, but cautioned that cracking wheat’s complicated genetic code is far from completed.

British researchers working with the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium on Friday released the first version of the wheat genome, a step toward a fully analyzed map that should help wheat breeders develop varieties that can yield more despite drought or disease.

“This is significant progress,” said Kellye Eversole, executive director of the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC). “It is a very useful contribution towards the final goal of a genome sequence-based platform for wheat breeding. While we are nowhere near cracking the genetic code and far from having all of the information needed to understand the wheat genome, we are moving forward…”

The IWGSC was established by a group of plant scientists, breeders, and growers to sequence the highly complex wheat genome. Wheat has been viewed as all but impossible to sequence because of its sheer size.

Like all plants, wheat has far more complex DNA than animals. It is made up of 17 billion base pairs of the chemicals that make up DNA — five times more than the human genome.

The public release of the wheat genome data should provide a foundation to identify genetic differences between wheat varieties, wheat breeding experts said. Much more work remains to be done to discover what the genetic data means.

Lots of hard work ahead. Needless to say, climate change only adds to the questions needing to be asked and answered.

Assuring that artificial limitations are not imposed by profiteers or Luddites will probably consume a certain amount of time.