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The IWGSC, with 2,400 members in 68 countries, is an international, collaborative consortium, established in 2005 by a group of wheat growers, plant scientists, and public and private breeders. The vision of the IWGSC is a high quality genome sequence of bread wheat that serves as a foundation for the accelerated development of improved varieties and that empowers all aspects of basic and applied wheat science.

Wheat harvest on the Palouse - ARS Image K1441-5

Bread wheat is the most extensively cultivated wheat crop, being grown on over 95% of the wheat growing areas of the world. Its sequence holds the key to genetic improvements that will allow growers to meet the increasing demands for high quality food and feed produced in an environmentally sensitive, sustainable, and profitable manner.

The IWGSC uses a milestone-based, adaptable strategy that ensures the immediate availability of significant outputs for wheat breeders and the wheat industry at large in parallel to continued advancements in basic research on the wheat genome.

The four key milestones of the IWGSC roadmap are:
(1) use of survey sequences of the 21 bread wheat chromosomes to assign gene sequences to individual chromosomes;
(2) develop physical maps to provide resources for sequencing;
(3) deliver a reference sequence for each of the chromosomes; and
(4) produce a gold standard genome sequence by integrating chromosome based genomic resources with the IWGSC whole genome assembly.

The first milestone was reached on July 2014 with the publication of the chromosome-based draft genome sequence in the journal Science. The physical maps for all chromosomes (milestone 2) were completed by the end of 2015. At the end of January 2016, a whole genome shotgun assembly had generated a reference sequence for each chromosome (IWGSC WGA v0.4 - milestone 3); this was made available pre-publication in June 2016 . The annotated, high quality reference sequence improved by integrating chromosome-based map and sequence resources with the whole genome assembly (IWGSC RefSeq v 1.0 – milestone 3) was made available pre-publication in January 2017 . In July 2018, all IWGSC reference sequence resources were made publicly available . On 17 August 2018, the IWGSC published in the international journal Science a detailed description and an analysis of the reference sequence of the bread wheat genome. This sequence will be further improved to deliver milestone 4 by 2020.

With the completion of IWGSC RefSeq v1.0, the Consortium has moved into Phase II and now focuses its efforts on four activities:
(1) IWGSC Diversity project to characterize the breadth of worldwide wheat diversity by de novo sequencing and assembly of at least eight landraces at high quality to obtain ancient wheat haplotypes and sequence multiple landraces and elite varieties at lower quality to capture modern genetic diversity, including alien introgressions;
(2) IWGSC Gold Standard reference sequence: gap filling and integration of manual and functional annotation to IWGSC RefSeq v1.0;
(3) IWGSC Exome Array based on the IWGSC RefSeq v1.0; and
(4) IWGSC Toolbox: continued development of user-friendly, integrated databases and tools to benefit public breeders and industry partners.

With these activities, the IWGSC will reach beyond the reference sequence to provide breeders and the broader scientific community with a full genome-sequence based tool box for wheat improvement.

For more Information:

Fact sheet: About the IWGSC

IWGSC Brochure 491.34 kB