It is a forerunner of bread wheat which man has been cultivating for a hundred years: For the first time, an international team succeeded in deciphering the genome sequence of the Wild Emmer. The results have been published in "Science". They could contribute to the cultivation of more resistant wheat varieties - and support global food production.
Wild emmer (Triticum dicoccum) is the progenitor species of almost all cultivated wheat varieties and one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world. Because of its fragile heads, it has almost no significance in agriculture at this time. However, he is closely related to the bread and pasta wheat. It has individual characteristics which are of great interest for the breeding of improved varieties of wheat: Wild Emmer does not have any special demands on soil texture and is also successful on weak soils. In addition, it is characterized by its resistance to diseases and is much better suited to dry periods than conventional wheat.
The research paper was the result of an international cooperation with scientists from various research institutions. In close collaboration with Professor Klaus Mayer of the Department of Genombiology of Plants at TUM and Head of the Research Group Genomics and System Biology of Plants (PGSB) at the Helmholtz Center Munich, Dr. Assaf Distelfeld, a plant scientist at Israel's Tel Aviv University, deciphered Dr. Sven Twardziok and Dr. Heidrun Gundlach the entire genome of the Emmer. It is three times larger than the human genome.
“This information regarding the genome will be able to make a substantial contribution to securing the global food supply in the future,” says Dr. Klaus Mayer, PGSB head. Wheat accounts for roughly 20 percent of the calories consumed globally and consequently plays a key role in world nutrition. More resistant varieties based on genetic elements from emmer would be advantageous.
“In addition, insights into wheat’s more than ten thousand years of domestication and purposeful, improved cultivation for stress resistance and increased yield are now possible,” adds Dr. Manuel Spannagl, research associate at the PGSB.
Avni R et. al: Wild emmer genome architecture and diversity elucidate wheat evolution and domestication, Science 2017. doi: 10.1126/science.aan0032