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Industry responds to wheat genome research

29 November 2012

In response to scientists unlocking key components of the genetic code of one of the world's most important crops, bread wheat, industry and farming representatives from the Crop Improvement Research Club (CIRC) have explained the benefits.

Keith Norman, Technical Director of Velcourt Farm Management and CIRC Steering Group Chairman said: "Farmers have really suffered this year with some of the most severe disease pressure, virus incidence and lack of sunlight to fill grains properly. If we are to ensure productivity in times of climate change, we need to look to new varietal traits that provide robustness against extreme weather patterns. The translation of genome data into useful tools for breeders is an important step in speeding up and understanding the process to produce more resilient varieties for the future."

Dr Peter Jack, from RAGT seeds, said: "[This] has proven to be an invaluable framework to identify sequence variation between wheat varieties. This in turn allowed the development of marker systems to interrogate the wheat genome in a much more efficient manner than hitherto possible; in particular to map the location of gene variants underlying important traits such as yield, quality and disease resistance.

"A key part of this process has been the close relationship between academic scientists and crop breeders so that the right tools were developed in the right format to achieve maximum benefit. We have been very impressed with how the research scientists involved have responded to our requests. For example, the development of a publically accessible database so that any breeder or researcher worldwide can access the necessary molecular tools.

"It is also important to recognize the role of an enterprising start up business in the genotyping sector, such as KBiosciences, who have facilitated many of these steps. A fantastic advert for entrepreneurial Britain!"

"Crop breeding is a long term process given that so many desirable genes have to be brought together and constantly upgraded in the face of ever changing challenges. Thus, this is only the start of the process and it will take a number of years before improved varieties emerge into agriculture. The important point is that wheat breeders can genetically dissect complex characters such as yield stability in a much more efficient manner than previously possible and thus can more rationally construct improved wheat varieties. "

The Crop Improvement Research Club (CIRC) is a partnership between BBSRC, The Scottish Government and a consortium of leading companies, aimed at supporting innovative and excellent research to underpin the development of improved crop varieties that deliver increased productivity and consistent, high quality end products.


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