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Last update: May 2021

Menu Logo Principal Clermont Auvergne University


Joint Research Unit 1095 Genetics, Diversity and Ecophysiology of Cereals

Diversity & Genomes

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Context & objectives

With 220 million hectares, soft wheat is the most widely grown cereal in the world. A staple food for 30% of the world's population, wheat is also, along with rice, the most widely consumed cereal in the human diet, providing an average of 532 kcal per person per day, i.e. about 20% of the average daily food requirement.

Global agriculture is currently facing an unprecedented challenge: to meet the changing food demands of a growing world population in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner. To feed a population that is expected to reach nine billion people by 2050, an annual increase in yields of around 1.7% is needed. Achieving this increase would be conceivable in a stable environment but seems more doubtful in an environment subject to climate change which affects not only yields but also their stability. Unprecedented progress since the Green Revolution of the 1960s must therefore be made in terms of varietal improvement and agronomic practices to enable this increase in food production.

DiGen Blé

Thus, in a context of global change, designing varieties that combine yield, quality, nutritional value but also resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses has become a priority for agriculture. During the process of domestication and breeding, wheat suffered a major bottleneck that resulted in a relatively small genetic base. A strategic priority for improvement at the global level is therefore to enrich the pool of crop varieties by incorporating new genes or alleles of agronomic interest. To do this, it is possible to exploit the natural diversity of wheat (landraces, traditional cultivars and modern varieties) and also related species constituting its primary, secondary and tertiary pools (diploid and tetraploid ancestors, other species of the genus Triticum or Aegilops, rye, barley, Agropyron, Thinopyrum...). However, in order to exploit the full potential of this diversity, it is necessary to characterize and understand it.

 This objective is at the heart of the research project of the "Diversity & Genomes" (DiGen) team. Our work is divided into two main areas that can be summarized as follows: (1) How has global genetic diversity been shaped? (2) How can we better integrate genetic diversity into varietal selection programs?