The International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC) announced that it will receive approximately €1 million (EUR) over the next six months from Bayer CropScience (BCS) to support physical mapping of several wheat chromosomes. The goal of BCS’s contribution is to accelerate the consortium’s wheat genome sequencing effort by enabling the completion of physical maps for all 21 chromosomes. These maps are the foundation for obtaining ultimately a complete reference sequence of the hexaploid bread wheat genome, expected by 2016-17.  The DNA sequence of the wheat genome will provide an essential tool for identifying and studying the function of wheat genes and support efficient breeding of new varieties.

The results of the BCS contribution will be made publicly available and will provide industry and academic scientists increased knowledge about the molecular basis of key traits in wheat. Concurrently, plant breeders and farmers around the world will gain essential resources to accelerate their breeding programs and develop more sustainable wheat varieties with increased tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses.

IWGSC executive director, Kellye Eversole, stated that the announcement validates the relevance to breeders and industry of the consortium’s chromosome-based strategy for achieving the bread wheat reference genome sequence. According to IWGSC co-chair, Rudi Appels (Murdoch University), “the physical maps for isolated, individual, wheat chromosomes will facilitate direct linkage to traits used in the field and in breeding while also removing a significant roadblock towards achieving the reference sequence.”  IWGSC co-chair, Beat Keller (University of Zurich) said that “this support is essential for the rapid completion of physical maps for all 21 bread wheat chromosomes as they provide the basis for the high quality sequence needed for both wheat breeding and basic research”.  

“The Bayer CropScience-IWGSC-partnership is a good example of the role that industry can play in supporting large-scale genomics research,” said Catherine Feuillet, Head of Trait Research at BCS. “We are proud that BCS has taken this first initiative in wheat establishing a joint public-private partnership that will produce publicly available data sets that are crucial for applied genetics and genomics research.”