Wild forefather of wheat will help to resolve food security problems

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Исследование генома дикого предка пшеницы поможет решить глобальные проблемы пищевой безопасности
International group of researchers decoded the genome of wild emmer wheat (WEW) – forefather of present-day cultured wheat. This opens up new opportunities for the creation of new varieties having desired properties, which will help to resolve global food security problems.

About 10 thous. years ago, human managed to domesticate the wheat. This happened in the Middle East, in the region called Fertile Crescent. And nowadays, wheat – is the profound worldwide leader among crops as to the areas planted and one of the key food crops on the planet.

The forefather of all the significant varieties of present-day wheats – WEW (Triticum turgidum). Indeed, over the past 10 thous. years this plant changed greatly both thanks to natural selection and efforts of many famous and not yet famous crop breeders as well. For instance, the spike of WEW shatters at maturity, therefore is not so easy to harvest it. At the same time, present-day wheat has no this defective feature.

This is an example of important change that has occurred to wheat in the process of domestication, but, in a broad manner, there were dozens of such changes. Until recently, the genetic mechanisms that lie at the root of these changes were unknown, or insufficiently clear.

“The population of the Earth is increasing and according to some forecasts, in 2050 it will exceed 9.5 bln persons. This means that we need high-yielding varieties resistant to drought, diseases and pests”

To clarify them, international team of scientists conducted study of WEW genome. Results of their work were outlined in the article of Science on July 7. Its authors are 48 scientists representing the scientific institutions of Israel, Germany, USA, Canada, Italy, Japan and Australia.

The study throws a light upon the genetic changes related to the domestication of wheat, but this work has another aspect. The population of the Earth is increasing and according to some forecasts, in 2050 it will exceed 9.5 bln persons. It is obvious that the demand for food will also increase. This means that we need high-yielding varieties resistant to drought, diseases and pests.

Creation of such varieties is now possible thanks to gene engineering methods. And genome of wild forefather of wheat contains important information about what changes shall be made in the genome of present-day wheat to achieve the desired result.

Recently, at the invitation of the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics of National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, our country was visited by one of the co-authors of this study, Professor Hikmet Budak from the Montana State University (USA). In his interview to Innovation House he told about real-life impact of scientific work performed by him together with his workmates.

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