Scientists have managed to decode one of the world’s most important plants. Wheat has had its genetics manipulated by humans for hundreds of years, but the plants DNA has only just been properly cracked by scientists. Researchers at the University of California Davis have managed to map the genetic sequence of wheat for the first time, and the experiment may have an accelerating effect on genetic research into the future.

Wheat Genetic Code

The research, which was led by USC Davis scientist Jorge Dubcovsky, was published in the scientific journal Science. The journal has published a special wheat centred edition to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Norman Borlaug, one of the first researchers to create scientifically generated modified wheat plants.

Wheat genome finally decoded

There are several positives that can be taken from this study. Farmers, who are already benefiting from the genetic modification of wheat, may see better strains become available more quickly because of the decoding of the chromosome. The most important result of the research may, however, be the impact it has on other research like it.

The accelerating effect it has on similar research in the future is likely the key result of the experiment. According to Catherine Feuillet who chairs the project to decode the entire genome of wheat “We know now the way forward to obtain a reference sequence for the 20 remaining chromosomes and we hopefully will be able to find the resources to achieve this in the next three years.”

According to a press release concerning the study “The genetic blueprint is an invaluable resource to plant science researchers and breeders. For the first time, they have at their disposal a set of tools enabling them to rapidly locate specific genes on individual wheat chromosomes throughout the genome.”

Wheat’s genetic code: Speeding up research

Dubcovsky, the scientist that led the research, said the results “have been a fantastic resource for our laboratory. The development of genome specific primers, which used to take several weeks of work, can now be done in hours. Mapping of any sequence to the specific chromosome arm can now be done in silico in minutes. In addition to the acceleration of day to day work in wheat genetics, this resource has made possible analyses and discoveries at the genome level that were not possible before.“

The breakthrough will allow scientists to speed up their research on bread wheat at an incredible pace. A plant that is so important to the world’s economy, and so often affected by exogenous problems like droughts and pests, can benefit drastically from innovation in its genetics.