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The International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC) is a collaborative project doing for agriculture what the human genome sequencing project is delivering for medicine: a “gold standard reference sequence” or the complete map of the entire genome. The aim is to precisely position all genes and other genomic structures along the 21 wheat chromosomes. It is a big job, with the wheat genome being five times larger than the human genome.
Australian researchers are playing their part. Murdoch University Professor Rudi Appels is one of six co-Chairs of IWGSC and his team is working on sequencing chromosome 7A, one of 21 chromosomes in wheat. Prof Appels says this will eventually lead to “improved wheat varieties with important agricultural traits such as yield increase, stress response, and disease resistance, as well as having access to diagnostics for diagnosing unexpected problems that come up.”
The big task now is, how do we fulfil our obligation to international collaborators to share this data with researchers around the world? What infrastructure and skills are needed to be in place before farmers reap these benefits? This week we asked Professor Appels.