Scientists have decoded the entire DNA of wheat for the first time.
Researchers hope the findings will allow them to produce new ‘low allergy’ varieties as well as crops that need less water.
They hope to help sufferers of coeliac disease who become ill from eating gluten.
Detailing the genome of the world’s most widely-cultivated crop was, they said, more complex than for the human genome. Wheat has 16 billion base pairs – the building blocks of DNA – five times more than humans.
More than 200 scientists from 73 research institutes, including the John Innes Centre in Norwich, worked on the mammoth task the results of which are published in the journal Science.
Cristobal Uauy, project leader in crop genetics at the John Innes Centre, said: ‘Genomic knowledge of other crops has driven progress in selecting and breeding important traits. Tackling the colossal wheat genome has been a herculean challenge.
‘This will facilitate and make more effective the breeding for traits like drought or disease resistance. We are in a better position than ever to increase yield.’