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Landmark study to improve global wheat production

Landmark study to improve global wheat production

Prof Ian Small and Joanna Melonek

Full article released by the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology.

In a landmark study, an international team of scientists, including researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology (PEB), have sequenced and analysed the genomes of 15 wheat varieties that represent breeding programs from around the world, to provide the most comprehensive atlas of wheat genome sequences reported to date.

Wheat, one of the world’s most cultivated crops, requires its production to be increased by more than 50 per cent by 2050 in order to meet the estimated global demand. This study will aid global crop breeding considerably, helping to improve crop yield, quality and pest resistance in wheat and other important crop plants.

ARC Laureate Fellow, Professor Ian Small and Dr Joanna Melonek, from PEB and The University of Western Australia School of Molecular Sciences, contributed to the study through their globally recognised expertise in a family of genes known as Restorer-of-fertility-like (Rfl). These genes have valuable applications in wheat hybrid breeding programs.

Dr Melonek said the analysis of the Rfl gene family as a source of fertility-restorer genes would be important to accelerate hybrid-breeding programs, which, if successful, would increase the production of wheat significantly.

'We knew from the first complete wheat genome reference published two years ago, that wheat had a remarkably high number of Rfl genes, but this new work exposes the high variation among the family members between different wheat varieties,' Dr Melonek said.

'Wheat is a staple food and any improvements we can make to increase its productivity and quality will be important as the world population quickly grows and food security becomes an increasing issue.'

Professor Small and Dr Melonek believe that the findings are transferable to other plants and offer a significant route to help improve crop yield and quality in the future.


Ian Small (L) and Joanna Melonek (R) with wheat plants. Image Credit: Plant Energy Biology.

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