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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 February 2006, 15:51 GMT
Breakthrough to help feed hungry
John Innes
The findings could usher in new varieties of cereals
The solution to a 50-year wheat-breeding problem that could help feed the world's growing population has been found by UK scientists.

A team from the John Innes Centre at Colney, near Norwich, has found how to cross commercially grown wheat with wild varieties.

Wild plants have greater tolerance to drought or extreme conditions.

The findings, by a team led by Dr Graham Moore, were published on Thursday in the science journal Nature.

Tools to feed the world

The breakthrough by scientists at the JIC department of crop genetics will give plant breeders the scientific tools to develop new varieties of cereals, including wheat and potentially rice.

"This is really very, very important. It will give us the tools to feed the world. We know that the world population is increasing," Dr Moore said.

"This will make it possible to cross wheat varieties with wild relatives which have features like drought tolerance or can grow in more saline conditions."

The team set out to understand why a complex gene in wheat called PH1 controlled the make-up of the plant.

Their breakthrough will make it possible to transfer desirable characteristics into wheat and eventually other cereals by conventional plant breeding techniques.

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