Wheat accounts for a staggering 20 per cent of all calories consumed throughout the world. As global population grows, so too does its dependence on wheat. To meet future demands, productivity for wheat needs to increase by 1.6 per cent each year – at the same time as climate change is causing temperature and precipitation changes that challenge established patterns. There is, in addition, a need to ensure that productivity increases are achieved sustainably to ensure the longterm stability of the wheatgrowing industry.
In Canada, wheat accounts for more than $4.5 billion in annual sales and, when valueadded processing is factored in, adds more than $11 billion each year to the Canadian economy. Dr. Curtis Pozniak of the University of Saskatchewan is leading the CTAG2 team, with scientists participating from five Canadian research institutions: The National Research Council of Canada, Agriculture and AgriFood Canada, University of Guelph, and the University of Regina. The emphasis of CTAG2 is to conduct research to better understand the wheat genome and to apply this research to develop genetic markers and predictive genetic tests to improve selection efficiency in Canadian wheat breeding programs. The CTAG2 team will work with the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium to generate a high quality reference of chromosome 2B of wheat and drive innovation in wheat breeding by developing genomic strategies to improve utilization of untapped genetic variation from related species. The end result will be the development of tools and strategies for wheat breeders to develop improved cultivars that are more productive and resistant to disease and pests, and resilient to heat and drought stresses. These cultivars will enable wheat farmers to ensure that their product is more productive, profitable and environmentally sustainable.
The project is part of an international collaboration to sequence the entire wheat genome and to characterize genetic variation influencing critical traits targeted by wheat breeders in Canada.