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Mapping the Bread Genome

Growing wheatNaturally high in fiber, bread wheat accounts for about 20 percent of the calories people consume around the world and now, researchers have mapped out the genetic code of this crop, a finding that promises to help improve the crops’ future productivity.

The first analysis of the large bread wheat genome (Triticum aestivum) identified approximately 96,000 wheat genes, making it about five times the size of the human genome. The bread wheat genome is classified as a hexaploid genome, meaning that it has six copies of each of its seven chromosomes. The complete set numbering 42 chromosomes. The human genome is diploid, with 23 pairs of chromosomes and a total of 46 chromosomes.

It was only in 2001 that USDA scientists mapped out the first plant genome – a flowering plant in the mustard family called Arabidopsis. Today, scientists have identified the genome for numerous fruits, vegetables, and other plants, including corn and tomatoes. 

Sources: Rachel Brenchley, et al. Analysis of the bread wheat genome using whole-genome shotgun sequencing. Nature, 2012; 491 (7426): 705 DOI: 10.1038/nature11650

USDA Scientists and Cooperators Sequence the Wheat Genome in Breakthrough for Global Food Security, USDA News Release.

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