Old wheat helps new wheat

An ancient strain of wild wheat found growing in Israel has enabled a team of Israeli and American scientists to boost the protein, zinc and iron content in modern wheat about 10 – 15 per cent, an accomplishment that could help supply more nutritious food to millions of people worldwide.

The scientists now plan to distribute the seeds freely to farmers throughout the world through international public seed agencies. India, China, Argentina and Canada have already launched projects the make the new wheat available.

Wheat was first harvested on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea 10,000 years ago.

Over the centuries, as wheat became domesticated, the gene that enhances the protein, zinc and iron value in the grain, became non-functional.

This discovery provides a clear example of the value and importance of conserving the wild germplasm.

Providing about 20 percent of all calories, annual global wheat production is an estimated 620 million tons.