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EUROPEAN-SEED.COM I EUROPEAN SEED I 19EUROPEAN-SEED.COM I EUROPEAN SEED I 19 equencing the wheat genome has long been considered an insurmountable challenge. World demographics how- ever have left society with no choice wheat production must increase to feed a growing population. Improving average wheat yields has become a major objective with genome sequencing as its prerequisite. Last year the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium unveiled the first draft sequence of the bread wheat genome. A complete reference sequence that will pave the way to improved wheat varieties could be achieved by 2018. The European Union is the worlds lead- ing wheat producer ahead of China India and the United States with 20 per cent of the total world harvest 140 million tons in 2013 on 26 million hectares cultivated. Today 4.6 million European farmers depend on this crop for their income. The EU leads the world in wheat improvement with a significant number of seed companies involved with breeding and production of wheat and wheat seeds as well as world-leading academic research institutes engaged in wheat research. In 2013 the contri- bution of wheat net output to the EU economy was estimated to be over 9 billion. With a projected world population of 9.6 billion by 2050 the Food and Agriculture Organization FAO forecasts that the demand for wheat will increase by 60 per cent. To meet that demand annual yield increases must grow from the current level of less than one per cent to at least 1.7 per cent. Since availability of new land is limited to preserve biodiversity and water and nutrient resources are becoming scarcer the majority of this increase has to be achieved via crop and trait improvement on land currently cultivated. PARADIGM SHIFT For years genomic resources for wheat improve- ment lagged behind other major crops such as maize and rice. Because of its size 17 giga base pairs five times larger than the human genome and complexity three sets of chromosomes with highly similar gene contents and a large propor- tion of repetitive DNA wheat was considered impossible to sequence. Thus despite its soci- oeconomic importance and the recognition of the power that a genome sequence brings to breeding programs bread wheat remains one of the last major crops without a high-quality reference genome sequence. The International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium IWGSC was created in 2005 to change this paradigm. The international public-private collaborative consortium was established by a group of wheat growers scien- tists and breeders. Its goal is to deliver a publicly available high quality genome sequence of bread wheat that can serve as a foundation for wheat improvement and help to ensure profitability throughout the wheat value chain. The IWGSC is led by a board of directors that develops the overall strategy and a leader- ship team in charge of daily management. The Coordinating Committee composed of sponsors and leaders of IWGSC projects is responsible for establishing the overall scientific strategy and the strategic roadmap. IWGSC membership is open to any individual who is interested in supporting the goals and activities of the consortium. A MILESTONE-BASED STRATEGY To circumvent genome complexity the IWGSC adopted a chromosome-based approach made possible through technological advancements in flow-sorting of chromosomes. The IWGSC fol- lows a milestone-based adaptable strategy for all of the 21 bread wheat chromosomes. The three key milestones on the roadmap are to Produce draft sequences that provide a gene catalogue and localize as many genes along the chromosomes as possibleWheat karyotype. IWGSC SPONSORS