TP Martin

Wheat field

Helping UK wheat breeders through genomics

University of Bristol

Researcher: Keith Edwards

Funder: BBSRC

A University of Bristol research team has developed a set of molecular markers of practical use to breeders.

Unlike rice and maize, wheat breeders and farmers have failed to deliver significant increases in yield in recent years. This inability to increase the yield is a major concern to world agriculture and has contributed to high grain prices.

The research undertaken by University of Bristol will dramatically change the process of wheat breeding by shortening the breeding cycle and allowing farmers to select wheat genes which are disease resistant or drought tolerant.

To confirm that the markers are useful the team, led by Professor Keith Edwards, have worked closely with UK wheat breeding companies and UK biotechnology company KBioscience to ensure they perform under industrial conditions and at a significantly lower cost than previous systems.

UK wheat breeders now have a cheap and simple marker system based on Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs), KBioscience have a wheat genotyping service ready to be marketed, and Bristol has been able to import KBioscience genotyping technology into other academic projects.

The aim of the project is to have a mapped marker for every one of the 90,000 wheat genes. It should then be possible to map which genes underpin a variety of traits and which should be marked as targets for the next generation of wheat varieties.