Opinion Exploiting genomics to improve the benefits of wheat: Prospects and limitations

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Conventional breeding has been immensely successful in increasing crop production to meet the demands of the growing global population, particularly for wheat where production has increased by over three-fold over the last 60 years without a significant increase in the area of land used. However, the pace of improvement by conventional breeding is slow and limited by the range of variation present in wheat and species with which it can be crossed. Genomics can be defined as an interdisciplinary field of biology focusing on the structure, function, evolution, mapping, and editing of genomes (Wikipedia). As such it has the potential to revolutionise crop improvement, by accelerating the rate of progress and increasing the range of variation that is available. Despite this potential, progress in the application of biotechnology to improve wheat has been slow, particularly when applied to the quality of the grain for processing and nutrition. We will therefore consider the reasons for this and identify priorities for future research