Beyond wheat: expanding genetic resources to meet global food demand

27 May 2021

Beyond wheat: expanding genetic resources to meet global food demand

This year Earlham Institute’s Plant Genomics Group will be taking part in the eMonogram Conference, hosted by The James Hutton Institute and the University of Dundee, from 01 - 04 June 2021. Sharing their bioinformatics approaches and insight for analysing gene expression across multiple varieties of wheat, the Group will uncover how their work will diversify and increase production to help secure future food security.

The Group’s talks will start with Postdoctoral Scientist Dr Ben White presenting: “The Wheat Pantranscriptome” featured in the new and updated Triticeae resources as part of the Bioinformatics session, Tuesday 01 June. 

Ben, together with fellow Postdoctoral Scientist Dr Rachel Rusholme-Pilcher, has been working on multiple elite wheat cultivars from across the globe, as an extension of the 10+ Wheat Genomes project. Looking at changes in the expression of genes in different tissues - for example, grains and roots - and how these compare between the cultivars to assist breeders with understanding the traits of interest. 

Through exploring gene expression in the different wheat cultivars, they have found both shared and unique patterns of expression that could help understand the diversity of traits and adaptations between the cultivars. This will improve the ‘toolkit’ available to wheat breeders and allow them to make more informed decisions.

Followed by PhD Student Benedict Coombes, presenting: “Genomic impact of wild relative introgression breeding in hexaploid wheat”, Wednesday 02 June. 

Working with the King Group at the University of Nottingham, UK, and John Fellers at the University of Kansas, US, Benedict has been analysing wheat genomes containing chunks of chromosome from Ambylopyrum muticum, a wild relative of wheat. 

Using whole genome sequencing (WGS) data from 20 of these genomes, Benedict has explored the genomic impact of crossing wheat with a wild grass, including structural disruption and changes to gene expression. He has also produced a genome assembly for the wild wheat variety Am. muticum which has enabled novel genes that have been introduced into wheat to be identified, including candidate genes for rust resistance to help with crop disease.

The Group’s talks conclude with Head of the Plant Genomics Prof Anthony Hall presenting this year’s reputable Rank Prize Lecture: “Beyond the single wheat reference genome” - explaining our pioneering research in the international 10+ Wheat Genomes project. The research assembles, annotates and analyses the expression of diverse elite wheat cultivars from across the globe to improve genetic resources for crop health and sustainable agriculture. Find out more about the published work last year as part of the BBSRC Design Future Wheat strategic programme

Notes to editors

For more information, please contact:

Hayley London

Media & Communications Officer, Earlham Institute (EI)

  • +44 (0)1603 450107 / 07760438218
  • hayley.london@earlham.ac.uk

The Earlham Institute (EI) is a world-leading research Institute focusing on the development of genomics and computational biology. EI is based within the Norwich Research Park and is one of eight institutes that receive strategic funding from Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council (BBSRC) - £5.43m in 2017/18 - as well as support from other research funders. EI operates a National Capability to promote the application of genomics and bioinformatics to advance bioscience research and innovation.

EI offers a state of the art DNA sequencing facility, unique by its operation of multiple complementary technologies for data generation. The Institute is a UK hub for innovative bioinformatics through research, analysis and interpretation of multiple, complex data sets. It hosts one of the largest computing hardware facilities dedicated to life science research in Europe. It is also actively involved in developing novel platforms to provide access to computational tools and processing capacity for multiple academic and industrial users and promoting applications of computational Bioscience. Additionally, the Institute offers a training programme through courses and workshops, and an outreach programme targeting key stakeholders, and wider public audiences through dialogue and science communication activities.

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