For clues to making better bread, you need to take a walk on the wild side.
That’s the message from Murdoch University researchers, who have been looking for ways to jazz up regular bread wheat by crossing it with wild varieties.
They recently studied 21 wild wheat varieties native to Israel, and found they contained several genes that could potentially improve the dough quality and disease resistance of ordinary bread wheat.
Crossing regular wheat with its wild cousins may also help it to adapt to climate change, says Professor Wujun Ma, who led the study.
“The genetic richness of wild wheat opens a huge range of opportunities for future improvements in modern wheat breeding,” he says.
In particular, the researchers looked at genes that make special wheat proteins called avenin-like proteins. These proteins are important for the strength of bread dough and also help wheat crops to fight fungal infections.
The team found that wild wheat strains had different forms of these genes, which may produce superior dough-strengthening and anti-fungal proteins.
“The interesting thing about wild wheat is that it has not been subjected to selective breeding through cultivation by farmers over many generations,” says Professor Ma.
“This means it still has a wide genetic diversity which we can use for modern wheat improvement.”
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