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Experts Crack Wheat Genome: Is Better Bread Ahead?

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Scientists have unveiled the genetic blueprint for the strain of wheat used in bread — an accomplishment that may help guide the breeding of varieties that are hardier and more productive. Researchers who are part of the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium, formed in 2005 by a group of wheat growers, plant scientists and breeders, on Thursday published what they called a chromosome-based draft genome sequence of bread wheat, also known as common wheat or Triticum aestivum.

The work makes it easier to identify genes controlling agriculturally important traits like yield, disease and pest resistance and drought tolerance, according to one of the lead researchers, Frédéric Choulet, a plant geneticist at the French National Institute for Agricultural Research, or INRA. "Wheat improvement is crucial to ensure food security and the development of sustainable agriculture in a context of climate change and growing population," Choulet said. The research, published in the journal Science, encompasses nearly all the 124,000 genes of bread wheat and roughly 60 percent of the whole genome.

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