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Finding hidden genetic treasure: study uncovers untapped diversity in historic wheat collection
Posted by: Prof. Dr. M. Raupp (IP Logged)
Date: June 24, 2024 10:51AM

A decade-long cross-institutional collaboration led by scientists from the
John Innes Centre (JIC) and the Agricultural Genomics Institute at Shenzhen,
Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), has discovered huge genetic
potential that is untapped in modern wheat varieties.

Dr. Simon Griffiths at JIC and Professor Shifeng Cheng at CAAS studied the
historic A.E. Watkins Landrace Collection, which contains a collection of
local wheat varieties which are no longer grown anywhere in the world, and
compared this with modern wheats. The study reveals that at least 60 percent
of the genetic diversity found in the A.E. Watkins Landrace Collection is
unused, providing an unprecedented opportunity to improve modern wheat and
sustainably feed a growing global population.

The international research team conducted in-depth phenotyping, covering
three experimental stations from the United Kingdom and field evaluation in
five locations from northern to southern China. In total, 137 traits were
surveyed in this study. The team built a wheat genomic variation map, a
haplotype-phenotype association map. The landrace-cultivar comparison
revealed that modern wheat varieties only make use of 40 percent of the
genetic diversity found in the Watkins Collection, while the remaining 60
percent represents a goldmine of potential to improve modern wheat, says Dr.


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