Cusp of Wheat Breakthrough
Wheat is the most commonly grown cereal crop on the planet, but its complete genome has proven a tangled puzzle for science. However, researchers have identified a draft sequence of the bread wheat genome and given farmers a major opportunity for yield boosts and heartier varieties.
Working through the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC), scientists from Asia, North America and Europe have contributed to groundbreaking work to build a genetic blueprint of the wheat genome. IWGSC is seeking to produce a free, open market bread wheat genome for agriculture worldwide.
Decoding the wheat genome is a laborious task—far more difficult than rice and corn—due to its size and complexity. “The wheat genome is six times larger than the human genome,” explains Odd-Arne Olsen, genome research team leader, Norwegian University of Life Sciences.
Bread wheat originated from two natural hybridizations, resulting in DNA composition from three separate species. “This has made mapping the DNA extra complicated. We have had to develop methods that allow us to separate DNA from three different sets of genetic material.”
With a chromosome-based full sequence at the ready, wheat breeders can address yield, grain quality, disease, pest resistance and stress tolerance. “The object of wheat research is to ensure that new knowledge about genetics can be used to enable more effective breeding of new wheat varieties that can withstand
extreme weather conditions and to develop varieties with better baking quality and high nutritional quality,” Olsen says.
New U.S.–Canadian Trade Info
Annual agricultural trade between the U.S. and Canada exceeds $40 billion. Recently released commercial trade information is helping to clarify rules for grain handlers and buyers on border transactions.
The Canada–U.S. Grain and Seed Trade Task Group has published information at www.canada-usgrainandseedtrade.info to offer new options for commercial grain handlers to gain phytosanitary certificates for U.S., Canadian or mixed grain shipments, which can be loaded at elevators in either country, to third-party countries. Four trade modules are available on the website: U.S. producer deliveries, Canadian producer deliveries, seed trade and the new commercial module.
Stemming from the Canadian Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act of 2011, open-market changes have provided wider latitude for cross-border movement of wheat, durum and barley, but the grain remains subject to import regulations, such as phytosanitary requirements.
“The new rules provide more transparency about the origin of grain, but they can be complex. Now, grain handlers and buyers can reference the new commercial module and share their questions and comments on the website,” explains Tyler Bjornson, interim executive director, Canadian Grains Council.
“This new information should answer many of the questions that commercial traders had following the open-market transition about cross-border trade opportunities in both countries,” adds Gary Martin, president and CEO, North American Export Grain Association.
Egypt Cancels U.S. Tender
After receiving a $100 million credit line from the U.S. to purchase wheat, Egypt officials canceled a mid-February tender because prices were too high.
According to Bloomberg News, U.S. wheat, offered by Cargill Inc. and Bunge Ltd., was “much higher than world prices,” said Mamdouh Abdel Fattah, vice chairman of the state-run General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC). Egypt, the world’s largest wheat importer, hasn’t bought U.S. grain though the state-run tender system since September.
U.S. exporters have struggled to be competitive against cheaper supplies from Europe. Offers for U.S. wheat in the canceled tender ranged from $287 to $336.46 per metric ton, according to a GASC document. The average price for French and Romanian wheat in Egypt’s Feb. 3 international tender was $236.25. Egypt doesn’t have a time limit to use the U.S. credit, however, if prices retreat.