Breakthrough world staple crop

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A new study has isolated a gene controlling shape and size of spikelets in wheat in a breakthrough which could help breeders deliver yield increases in one of the world’s most important crops.

The team from the John Innes Centre say the underlying genetic mechanism they have found is also relevant to inflorescence (floral) architecture in a number of other major cereals including corn, barley and rice.

The genetic identification of an agronomically-relevant trait represents a significant milestone in research on wheat; a crop with a notoriously complex genome.
The findings, published recently in the journal The Plant Cell, give breeders a new tool to accelerate the global quest to improve wheat. The study also highlights a range of next generation techniques available for fundamental research into wheat, the world’s most abundantly produced crop.

The Wheat Initiative, which co-ordinates global research for wheat, has identified floral architecture as one of the key traits which must be improved if a 1.6% yield increase needed to feed a growing world population is to be reached.