Optimising grain shape for improved processing quality

Lead Research Organisation: John Innes Centre
Department Name: Contracts Office


The cereal endosperm is a major source of calories and protein for much of the world’s population and its livestock. In the UK wheat accounts for nearly 64% of the total 22.5m tonnes of cereals produced. Products such as bread, pasta and noodles are usually made from white flour which is derived from the inner, starchy endosperm cells of the grain. The dumbbell-shaped cross-section of the wheat grain with its deeply recessed groove region means that grain cannot be simply pearled and crushed but sophisticated milling procedures are instead required to generate white flour free of surrounding tissues. The size and shape of the grain, therefore, have a major impact on the ease with which these endosperm cells are separated from the aleurone layer (bran) and other tissues, and hence on yield of flour. The economic value of the wheat crop is determined by class, which depends in part on kernel morphology and texture, and test weight. Increasing seed size, and in particular minimizing the ventral crease would increase processing efficiency and the yield of starchy endosperm recoverable from each seed, increasing the economic value of the wheat crop.
The aims of this project are to increase yield of endosperm recoverable from wheat seeds:
1 By increasing the size of wheat endosperm, either through direct manipulation of the endosperm or indirectly through increasing the size of maternal components of the seed.
2 By modifying the shape of wheat seeds, specifically through minimizing the size of the ventral crease.
In order to address these specific problems it will be necessary to identify the genes and mechanisms that control endosperm cell proliferation. This will be addressed by bring together the existing knowledge and expertise from the model species Arabidopsis, together with that from wheat, to controlling wheat endosperm development. The information gained should however be generic and applicable to other crops.


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