International team of scientists including 18 Indian scientists decode complex wheat genome

New Delhi: In a major scientific breakthrough, a team of international researchers, including 18 from India decoded the wheat genome, considered insurmountable so far. The information generated will help to identify genes controlling complex agronomic traits such as yield, grain quality, resistance to diseases and pests, as well as tolerance to drought, heat, water logging and salinity.

Reacting to the breakthrough, Science & Technology Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said, “cracking of the bread wheat genome will go a long way in developing climate-resilient wheat and help tide over possible impact of climate change on farm output.” The minister congratulated the Indian team involved in the research and said, it proves our scientists are capable of matching the best in the world in any discipline.

In an article published in ‘Science’, the authors said, the DNA sequence has been ordered and it represents the highest quality genome sequence generated to date for the bread wheat. The reference genome covers 94% (14.5 Gb) of the entire wheat genome. The bread wheat has a complex hexaploid genome which is 40 times larger than that of the rice genome and 5 times larger than the human genome.

The research article– authored by more than 200 scientists from 73 research institutions in 20 countries. A team of 18 Indian scientists co-authoring this paper, led by Dr. Kuldeep Singh at Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) Ludhiana, Professor J. P. Khurana at the University of Delhi South Campus, and Professor Nagendra Singh at ICAR-National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology, New Delhi, contributed to the decoding of Chromosome 2A of the wheat genome. This project was financially supported by the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India.

The availability of high quality reference genome would accelerate the breeding of climate-resilient wheat varieties to feed the ever-increasing world population and help address global food security in the decades to come.