The Wheat Improvement Strategic Programme (WISP) Consortium

The WISP consortium is a BBSRC funded collaborative programme for wheat improvement, which brings together experts from five UK institutions: John Innes Centre, National Institute for Agricultural Botany, University of Nottingham, University of Bristol and Rothamsted Research. This cross institutional programme will run from 2011 to 2017 and will produce new and novel wheat germplasm characterised for traits relevant to academics and breeders and will identify genetic markers for selecting these traits. The programme is structured around three complementary "pillars" (Landraces, Synthetics and Ancestral Gene Introgression) each of which will broaden the pool of genetic variation in wheat by a different route. Two cross-linking themes, Genotyping and Phenotyping, provide the "Entablature" connecting the Pillars. A fourth pillar, which will involve the production of elite wheat cultivars will be resourced independently by private breeding companies.

The WISP consortium is a BBSRC funded collaborative programme bringing together experts in wheat genetics and breeding from five institutions. WISP is a comprehensive pre-breeding programme - the first of its kind in over 20 years - aiming to guarantee the sustainability of wheat production against the background of growing global population and changing environment.

Specific goals of the project are to:

  • Understand the genetics behind factors limiting grain yield, such as drought tolerance, plant shape and resistance to pests and diseases.
  • Identify new and useful genetic variation from related species and sources of wheat germplasm not adapted to target environments.
  • Cross wheat lines to produce germplasm that allows the identification of genes influencing key traits.
  • Generate a database of genetic markers, for use in precision breeding.

The good news for growers is that both the new germplasm and the information generated by this project will be made freely available. That means plant breeders can use the germplasm to cross with their existing lines, while academics will be able to make use of it to understand the mechanistic basis of key traits in bread wheat.

Publicly Available Information