At the end of last month, scientists at the University of Liverpool, in collaboration with the University of Bristol and the John Innes Centre, announced they had succeeded in decoding the genome of wheat in a breakthrough that could help crop breeders increase the yield of British wheat varieties.
However, the findings are being disputed by the International Wheat Genome Sequence Consortium (IWGSC), which has said that it strongly disagrees with claims, reported in an article by Associated Press, that these findings represent in any way the sequence of the wheat genome or that this work is comparable to genome sequences for rice, maize or soybean.
The IWGSC said it stands by the position of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, which funded the research, that "this is an important step, but significant work remains to be done to achieve a complete genome sequence".
Alex Waugh, director general of the National Association of British and Irish Millers said the process of establishing which of the characteristics in the wheat genome are most useful for new varieties will still be a complex process. "There's still a lot of work to be done in order to translate these findings into real change. However, the more we understand, the better able we will be to meet future production requirements and, importantly, to use resources more efficiently, making agricultural production more sustainable."
Professor Ian Crute, chief scientist at the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board, added: "Having access to the DNA sequence of all the genes in wheat will truly revolutionise breeding. As well as yield and quality improvements, this significant advance will speed up the ability to identify and select the sets of genes that control important characters for sustainable crop production."