The Wheat Improvement programme is structured around three ‘pillars’ and two cross linking themes, each run by a different partner institute.

The ‘pillars’ will broaden the pool of genetic variation in wheat by different routes.

The Landrace Pillar at the John Innes Centre will develop germplasm (seeds) from crosses involving wheat landraces or locally adapted varieties, derived from the Watkins and other collections.

The Synthetic Pillar (at NIAB ) is focusing on extending the bread wheat gene pool by understanding, exploiting and incorporating novel genetic diversity from wild and cultivated relatives of bread wheat.

The Ancestral Introgression Pillar (at the University of Nottingham) will use a technique which involves transfers of small segments of chromosomes of wild relatives containing the target genes, into wheat. Wild and cultivated relatives provide a wealth of genetic variation for all characters of importance relative to yield, climate change and the environment.


The cross linking themes will screen the novel germplasm to identify the lines with most potential for introduction into elite lines by wheat breeders, as well as those lines best adapted for research to understand the biology of key traits.

The Genotyping theme (at the University of Bristol ) will use recently identified single nucleotide polymorphisms to genotype lines and populations developed in each of the pillars and link to the information generated within the Phenotyping theme; it will also provide markers for "precision" breeding, and for dissection and cloning of key traits. 

The Phenotyping theme (at Rothamsted Research and the University of Nottingham) will identify new phenotypic variation for key UK wheat breeding traits (increased biomass, enhanced nitrogen and phosphorus use efficiency, and resistance to aphids, bulb fly and Take-All Disease), and the genetic and physiological basis of this variation by screening diverse wheat germplasm collections and precise genetic stocks derived from these collections.


For more on the work of all of the Wheat Improvement programme collaborators, visit


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