In the August 17, 2018 issue of Science, the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC) published a detailed description of the genome of bread wheat, the world’s most widely cultivated crop. This work will pave the way for the production of wheat varieties better adapted to climate challenges, with higher yields, enhanced nutritional quality and improved sustainability. The research article – authored by more than 200 scientists from 73 research institutions in 20 countries – presents the reference genome of the bread wheat variety Chinese Spring. The article is titled “Shifting the Limits In Wheat Research and Breeding Using a Fully Annotated Reference Genome.” The DNA sequence ordered along the 21 wheat chromosomes is the highest-quality genome sequence produced to date for wheat. It is the result of 13 years of collaborative international research. A key crop for food security, wheat is the staple food of more than a third of the global human population and accounts for almost 20% of the total calories and protein consumed by humans worldwide, more than any other single food source. It also serves as an important source of vitamins and minerals. To meet future demands of a projected world population of 9.6 billion by 2050, wheat productivity needs to increase by 1.6 per cent each year. In order to preserve biodiversity, water, and nutrient resources, the majority of this increase has to be achieved via crop and trait improvement on land currently cultivated rather than committing new land to cultivation. With the reference genome sequence now completed, breeders have at their disposal new tools to address these challenges.
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