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WHEAT GENOME MAY HELP TACKLE FOOD SHORTAGES

Baku, August 27 (AZERTAC). UK scientists have released draft sequences of the wheat genome, which they think could make a vital contribution to securing global food supplies.

The researchers also say their efforts could help British farmers to develop new strains with greater yields.

Global wheat production has been under threat in recent years from increasing demand and climate change.

Wheat is regarded as one of the most important crops for human consumption.

The results of the study, led by Neil Hall from the University of Liverpool, are available for public use.

They are meant to enable other scientists and breeders worldwide to "analyse the sequence and use it in a new breeding method called macro-assisted selection that could dramatically increase the speed and efficiency of plant breeding," said Mike Bevan, the director of the John Innes centre, who took part in the research.

Recently, Russia, one of the biggest producers of wheat, banned all export of wheat after severe drought and wildfires charred crops around the country.

The move raised worldwide concerns about possible wheat shortages and has sent wheat prices soaring.

Major floods in Pakistan and mudslides in China made wheat prices spike even further. Canada and several other countries also expect their wheat harvest to be much lower than last year due to weather conditions.

Wheat, with an estimated world harvest of more than 550 million tonnes, is considered one of major staple foods in European agriculture, as well as in India, China and Africa.

But breeders often do not know how to select traits for a healthy yield. Scientists say the recent genome sequencing will give them the tools needed to do just that.

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