Wheat is one of the most important cereal crops in the world with global production at around 650 million tonnes per annum. About 95% of the worlds wheat is Triticum aestivum which is cultivated as bread wheat, which is consumed in the form of a variety of breads across the globe in different countries and cultures. Growing global demand for bread wheat requires ongoing genetic improvement to increase yields, however, these new high yielding varieties must retain the essential bread wheat quality characteristics. There are wheat varieties yielding as much as 30% more than current commercial bread wheat varieties, however, they are currently not used commercially for human consumption due to their poor bread making quality. Furthermore, assessing a wheat genotype for bread making quality has traditionally required a baking test which requires a large sample of wheat; only achievable at a late stage of new variety development after significant time and capital investment. To date a lack of understanding of the biochemical and molecular genetic control of bread making quality has prevented the application of molecular tools to supporting accelerated wheat breeding or development of transgenic high yielding wheat with high bread making quality.
Professor Robert Henry and his team at the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) at The University of Queensland have used advanced molecular techniques to identify key components underpinning the genetic and molecular basis of bread quality in wheat. By comparing global gene expression in a panel of good and poor bread making wheat genotypes at several stages throughout their growth, the research team has identified a gene (with a lack of significant homology to any gene of known function) remarkably linked to bread quality (~1000) fold higher expression in wheat genotypes with favourable bread making quality). This offers a powerful gene marker (marker assisted breeding) or genetic tool (transgenic approaches) for the production of high yielding wheat varieties with optimum bread making qualities.