Genomic prediction: Adding value to wheat

Article provided by AGMARDT

The Value-Added Wheat Group

Grant $195,000

A new genomic-based prediction tool to assist selection and breeding of New Zealand wheat suited to people with gluten sensitivities is being developed in an exciting industry-led project.

The Value-Added Wheat Group is made up of the Baking Industry Research Trust, Plant & Food Research, the Foundation for Arable Research and the Flour Milling Research Trust supported by AGMARDT.

The Group is developing genomic methods to enable selection of wheat varieties with low levels of gluten ‘epitopes’, the portion of the gluten protein that can stimulate an immune response. With lower levels of these epitopes, there is a reduced immune response.

“We’re looking to offer consumers who have a gluten sensitivity or intolerance, a new type of wheat that is suitable and acceptable for consumption,” says Tania Watson, Research Liaison for the Baking Industry Research Trust.

“Hopefully this will also give New Zealand grown wheat a strong point of difference in the market and obviously also provide opportunities for our wheat breeders to get ahead.”

While the low-gluten epitope wheats wouldn’t be suitable for people with coeliac disease, they could help prevent coeliac developing in susceptible people allowing them to eat wheat without overstimulating their immune system.

The first milestone of the project has been completed with analysis of the genotypes of some 500 wheat DNA samples from the year one field trial and collation of data to determine agronomic qualities. This data is then cross-referenced to select which lines of wheat to breed.

The next phase is underway with the planting and harvest of enough wheat for milling tests, and then ultimately bake testing planned for 2022.

The results of this work feed into other projects as part of a multi-year research focus for the Baking Industry Research Trust and Plant and Food Research looking into lowering gluten sensitivities to wheat bread.

“This is important research work and with AGMARDT funding and that of our other likeminded research partners, we are able to do these projects together in parallel in a way that they all feed into each other. Without that funding, we’d be missing pieces of the puzzle,” says Tania Watson.

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