John Innes Centre wheat genetics research has benefits
The bread-making qualities of wheat have also been the subject of studies at PBI and at JIC. Good bread-making dough depends on the two component proteins of gluten – gliadins and glutenins. Before the Second World War, most of the UK’s bread-making wheat was imported from the USA and Canada, where varieties were rich in gluten proteins. Research and the development of UK wheat with optimal gluten levels has led to 4.5m tonnes of bread wheat grown in the UK today. This was made possible due to the work of PBI scientists Dr Peter Payne, Professor Colin Law and Professor Dick Flavell in the 1970s and 1980s, leading to work at Rothamsted Research.
As can be seen, investment in fundamental research has led to wide-ranging benefits to the UK economy and UK society. Research takes time, with many of the developments taking place over at least 30 years. The John Innes Centre continues to receive funding from the BBSRC which enables this strategic research to take place.
Today, scientists at JIC continue to understand the genetics of wheat and are working towards future developments. For example, Professor John Snape developed approaches for genetically dissecting more complex traits in wheat, which are controlled by multiple genes. Prof Snape began applying these approaches to dissect the genetics of yield in wheat. Dr Simon Griffiths and Dr Cristobal Uauy (pictured) are exploiting and extending these developments, so that in the future we should have an understanding of the control of yield in wheat. This will be important given the predicted increase in the human population.