Wheat Genome Mapped

As scientists and farmer seek ways to make crops more drought resistant, a breakthrough in the wheat genome offers new information.

  • wheat
    Wheat has been a notoriously challenging genome to sequence.
    Photo by Getty Images/ithinksky

  • wheat

Genetic research unveils new truths about the natural world every year, but some genomes are notoriously difficult to crack. A small U.S. research team has finally succeeded in unlocking wheat’s DNA, a challenge that many crop geneticists considered almost insurmountable.

The genetic complexity of wheat (Triticum aestivum) meant that it took more than a decade of global effort before the genome was successfully mapped. Between 16 and 17 billion individual nucleotides compose wheat’s DNA, and most of its genome is made up of repeating sequences that make it difficult for scientists to identify meaningful patterns using traditional DNA sequencing techniques. Likewise, a single copy of this DNA is more than five times the size of the human genome, and it contains six copies of every chromosome.

Though the genome had previously been partially sequenced, significant gaps in the data made it difficult to interpret. To fill in the gaps, the research team used two forms of innovative technology to generate both short, highly accurate DNA sequences and sequences as long as 10,000 nucleotides, allowing the team to match the short sequences against the longer sequences for a more accurate composite sequence. These sequences totaled almost 15.3 billion nucleotides, or about 90 percent of the genome.

The impacts of this breakthrough go beyond scientific curiosity. Wheat is a staple crop that more than 2 billion people rely on each day, and a better understanding of its genetics will aid efforts to improve its growth in extreme conditions, such as drought or flooding. Likewise, this small team of scientists’ success in cracking such a complicated genetic sequence bodes well for faster breakthroughs in future genetic research.



Fall 2021!

Put your DIY skills to the test throughout November. We’re mixing full meal recipes in jars, crafting with flowers, backyard composting, cultivating mushrooms, and more!


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

50 Years of Money-Saving Tips!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS for 50 years and counting, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters