Two Kansas State University plant pathologists played a role in a scientific breakthrough that may help food producers feed a growing world population.
Sunish Sehgal, research associate in plant pathology, and Bikram S. Gill, university distinguished professor of plant pathology and director of the university's Wheat Genetics Resource Center, were part of an international collaboration that successfully sequenced most of the genes of common wheat, also known as bread wheat. It is grown in more than 95 percent of the world's wheat fields.
By sequencing its genes, scientists now have a genetic blueprint of common wheat for many traits, although associating gene sequences with traits will take many more years of work, Gill said. Researchers anticipate using this information to genetically improve wheat so that growers can meet the world's increasing demands for food and feed.
"This will be an important resource for wheat gene discovery," Gill said.
Additionally, the common wheat genome is a model genome for studying polyploidy -- a chromosomal driving force in plant genome evolution. Improved understanding of polyploidy may advance improvements in other food-producing plants, such as cabbage and broccoli.
A report of the study and its findings, titled "Analysis of the bread wheat genome using whole-genome shotgun sequencing," appears in the Nov. 29 issue of the journal Nature.
Gill and Sehgal are internationally recognized experts in wheat gene analysis and germplasm improvement. Both also are affiliated with Kansas State University's Wheat Genetics Resource Center, which is the largest contributor to wheat research in the world. The center maintains about 14,000 wild wheat species strains and about 10,000 genetic stocks. The collection is a one-stop shop for genetic resources.
"Our center has been described as a mecca for wheat genetics," Gill said.