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International Study Uncovers Untapped Diversity in Historic Wheat Collection

A decade-long cross-institutional collaboration led by scientists from the John Innes Centre (JIC) and the Agricultural Genomics Institute at Shenzhen, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), has discovered huge genetic potential that is untapped in modern wheat varieties.

Dr. Simon Griffiths at JIC and Professor Shifeng Cheng at CAAS studied the historic A.E. Watkins Landrace Collection, which contains a collection of local wheat varieties which are no longer grown anywhere in the world, and compared this with modern wheats. The study reveals that at least 60 percent of the genetic diversity found in the A.E. Watkins Landrace Collection is unused, providing an unprecedented opportunity to improve modern wheat and sustainably feed a growing global population.

The international research team conducted in-depth phenotyping, covering three experimental stations from the United Kingdom and field evaluation in five locations from northern to southern China. In total, 137 traits were surveyed in this study.

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