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Global Food Systems

Scientists mapping the wheat genome

A blueprint for a better crop

Several researchers in Kansas State University's department of plant pathology are part of an international effort to sequence the genome of bread wheat, also known as common wheat. 

Bread wheat is grown on more than 531 million acres around the world and produces nearly 700 million tons of food each year. The genome of wheat — which is a genetic blueprint of the plant — will enable scientists and breeders to improve the plant so that it produces more food, has better quality grain, and is more resistant to disease, pest insects and drought. 

While the wheat genome only has 21 chromosomes, each chromosome is extremely large in size and gives the plant nearly six times more genetic information than is in humans.

The International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium is analyzing these 21 chromosomes and cataloging their data in order to complete the bread wheat genome. The consortium anticipates completing the genome sequence in the next three years.

Researchers in the department of plant pathology who are part of the consortium's sequencing efforts include: 

  • Eduard Akhunov, associate professor.
  • Shichen Wang, programmer and bioinformatics scientist.
  • Jesse Poland, assistant professor.
  • Bikram Gill, university distinguished professor of plant pathology and director of the Wheat Genetics Resource Center.
  • Bernd Friebe, research professor.
  • Duane Wilson, associate scientist.
  • Sunish Sehgal, senior scientist. 



Scientists complete chromosome-based draft of the wheat genome
July 2014
Scientists have completed a chromosome-based draft sequence of the bread wheat genome as well as the first reference sequence of chromosome 3B, the largest chromosome in wheat. The full genome sequence is anticipated to be available in three years. 

Scientists shotgun sequence wheat genes, working for gold standard sequence of its genome
November 2012
An international collaboration successfully sequenced most of the genes of common wheat. Researchers used a method called whole genome shotgun sequencing that involves random bits and pieces of DNA that leaves many gaps in the sequence and is not anchored to a map. The team is working to produce a gold standard sequence of the wheat genome. The gold standard will be the complete sequence anchored to a genetic map of agronomic traits that are important to the wheat industry.