Biofortification of wheat grain with iron and zinc: integrating novel genomic resources and knowledge from model crops
Wheat, like many other staple cereals, contains low levels of the essential micronutrients iron and zinc. Up to two billion people worldwide suffer from iron and zinc deficiencies, particularly in regions with predominantly cereal-based diets. Although wheat flour is commonly fortified during processing, an attractive and more sustainable solution is biofortification, which requires developing new varieties of wheat with inherently higher iron and zinc content in their grains. Until now most studies aimed at increasing iron and zinc content in wheat grains have focused on discovering natural variation in progenitor or related species. However, recent developments in genomics and transformation have led to a step change in targeted research on wheat at a molecular level. We discuss promising approaches to improve iron and zinc content in wheat using knowledge gained in model grasses. We explore how the latest resources developed in wheat, including sequenced genomes and mutant populations, can be exploited for biofortification. We also highlight the key research and practical challenges that remain in improving iron and zinc content in wheat.