USDA project sequences wheat genome

Researchers hope the newly sequenced wheat genome will contribute to global food security.

The “shotgun sequencing” was reported in the journal Nature, and is expected to help increase wheat yields and thereby increase food security, while hurrying the development of enhanced wheat with higher nutritional content, according to the USDA, which worked with an international team on the project.

Wheat is considered to be one of the world’s most vital staple crops. Approximately 20 percent of the calories consumed by humans globally comes from wheat in bread. About 681 million tons of wheat were produced last year, according to the study.

“By unlocking the genetic secrets of wheat, this study and others like it give us the molecular tools necessary to improve wheat traits and allow our farmers to produce yields sufficient to feed growing populations in the United States and overseas,” said Catherine Woteki, USDA’s Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics, in a statement. “Genetics provides us with important methods that not only increase yields, but also address the ever-changing threats agriculture faces from natural pests, crop diseases and changing climates.”

The information derived from wheat’s genome is expected to be especially critical in breeding wheat to withstand drought, pests, disease and weeds in Africa and Asia. Additionally, wheat producers face problems such as soil acidity and diseases such as stem rust, which can devastate entire crops, according to the USDA.

To read the full release from the USDA, click here.

To read the full study published in Nature, click here.

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