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France Launches $55M Wheat Genomics Effort

By a GenomeWeb Staff Reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – France is preparing to undertake a nine-year, €39 million ($55.1 million) genomics initiative that seeks to improve wheat varieties in order to help meet an increasing demand for food.

Led by the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) and funded by 26 partners, including the French government and 11 private companies, the Long-Term Wheat Genomics to Breeding Program (BreedWheat) has already been awarded €9 million to fund the effort. BreedWheat-funded researchers will develop and use genome sequencing technologies and new methodologies for breeding wheat varieties to improve quality, sustainability, and productivity, INRA said today.

"Our goal is focused singularly on accelerating genetic gain to create new, high-yielding, wheat varieties that will meet current and future global challenges in wheat production," BreedWheat project leader Catherine Feuillet, who is research director at INRA's Joint Research Unit on Genetics, Diversity, and Ecophysiology of Cereals, said in a statement. "By combining structural genomics with advanced pre-breeding activities, we believe we can help position wheat to meet the demands of the 21st Century."

The project will employ structural and functional genomics, as well as genotyping and phenotyping to identify markers and genes involved in yield and other important quality traits. BreedWheat also will seek to characterize and use genetic resources to expand the diversity of wheat germplasm and to develop new breeding methods that will be evaluated for their socio-economic impact.

The effort will include sequencing of a wheat chromosome, detection of new SNPs, large-scale SNP production, genetic and physical mapping of 5,500 SNP markers, and generating 33 million genotyping data points for genomic association studies.

BreedWheat researchers also will characterize 5,000 wheat lines from INRA genetic stocks, which they will use to identify new alleles to be used in new breeding programs. Various selection strategies will be studied in a farm-scale breeding program, and a breeder-friendly bioinformatics platform will be developed that will enable researchers to access and use efficient association data.