Latest Issue of Science News


Wheat gone wild

Many wild varieties of wheat have higher concentrations of protein, iron, and zinc than domesticated wheat does. Researchers have now identified and cloned a gene that increases wild wheat's nutrients by 10 to 15 percent. The discovery team says that the work may lead to domesticated varieties that could reduce malnutrition.

The gene accelerates the maturation and death of wheat plants. As wheat leaves begin to die, they send protein and minerals into the grain, so nutrient content and longevity are linked, says project leader Jorge Dubcovsky of the University of California, Davis. His team reports its findings Nov. 24 in Science.

Domesticated wheat also contains the gene, but at least one copy of it is inactive. To test the gene's function in domesticated wheat, the researchers blocked all copies of the gene. The resulting wheat had 30 percent less protein and micronutrients and matured several weeks later than normal.

Note: To comment, Science News subscribing members must now establish a separate login relationship with Disqus. Click the Disqus icon below, enter your e-mail and click “forgot password” to reset your password. You may also log into Disqus using Facebook, Twitter or Google.

This article is available only to subscribing members. Join SSP today or Log in.