Researchers in America’s breadbasket and across the globe may have found a way to enhance global wheat production through genome sequencing of over a dozen wheat varieties.

Kansas State University scientists along with the international 10+ Genome Project, headed up by the University of Saskatchewan, have sequenced 15 wheat varieties from different breeding programs around the world.

The effort of genome sequencing of different wheat varieties gained momentum after KSU, with the help of the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium, published the genome assembly of Chinese Spring, a bread wheat variety.

Over 95 scientists from universities in Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Japan, the U.K., Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Israel, Australia and the U.S. participated in the 10+ Genome Project. The project’s goal is to characterize the wheat ‘pan genome,’ or all genes and genetic variation within a species.

"Our team was uniquely suited to represent U.S. wheat in this effort here in America's breadbasket and as a land-grant institution with a strong history in wheat research," said Jesse Poland, KSU associate professor and director of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Applied Wheat Genomics.

In the study, KSU researchers were responsible for sequencing and analyzing the hard-red winter wheat variety called Jagger. Released in 1994, this variety was used in the Great Plains and covered millions of acres for several years and is the parent variety that can be found in pedigrees of current varieties of wheat.

"It's like finding the missing pieces for your favorite puzzle that you have been working on for decades," said project leader Curtis Pozniak, wheat breeder and director of the University of Saskatchewan Crop Development Centre.

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Pozniak said having many complete gene assemblies available will help solve the huge puzzle that is the massive wheat pan-genome bring in a new era for wheat discovery and breeding.

"Because of our collaboration in this project, we've had access to this phenomenal genomics resource as it's been built, which has already led to tremendous discovery," Poland said.

Poland said K-State plant genetics graduate student Emily Delorean is using data from the 10+ Genomes Project to develop a comprehensive analysis of important quality genes and develop better molecular breeding tools, which will have a huge impact on bread making.

The National Science Foundation, Kansas Wheat, and USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture are among entities who helped fund the study.

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