Wheat breeders are duplicating the initial crosses that made wheat to find new genes to help improve modern varieties.


“The hypothesis is that a lot of potentially useful genes from those wild ancestors have not made it into modern wheat varieties, and we want to bring some of these back into circulation,” Phil Howell of NIAB TAG said.

The synthetic wheats made by crossing the wild ancestors are then further crossed into more modern varieties, he explained.

The researchers were looking at the resulting crosses for traits that could build yield, such as extra leafiness, bigger grains, bright green ears, as well as more traditional characteristics, such as disease resistance, he said.

Markers for those traits would then be sought, which breeders could use in their breeding programmes.