After a massive international effort involving over 200 scientists across 20 countries, the entire wheat genome has finally been sequenced. Described as a "Herculean challenge," the wheat genome is known to be five times larger than its human counterpart and exponentially more complex. The landmark human achievement is hoped to lead to more efficient wheat breeding and production of crops.
Wheat is arguably one of the most important human food crops in the world today, contributing to around 20 percent of all the calories we collectively consume, and providing more protein to the world's population than meat. Understanding its genome is of great value in better guiding selective breeding of varieties that can enhance yields and help our food growers adapt to a rapidly changing climate.
Despite initially compiling the raw genomic data almost a decade ago, the scale and complexity of the wheat genome has proved a challenge in accurately assembling that data into applicable chromosomes. The final results, recently published in the prestigious journal Science, outlines a sequence of 21 chromosomes, including more than 4 million molecular markers, and well over 100,000 specifically located genes.