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The bread — and barley — of life

Two groups in this issue report the compilation and analysis of the genome sequences of major cereal crops — bread wheat and barley — providing important resources for future crop improvement. Bread wheat accounts for one-fifth of the calories consumed by humankind. It has a very large and complex hexaploid genome of 17 Gigabases. Michael Bevan and colleagues have analysed the genome using 454 pyrosequencing and compared it with diploid ancestral and progenitor genomes. The authors discovered significant loss of gene family members upon polyploidization and domestication, and expansion of gene classes that may be associated with crop productivity.

Barley is one of the earliest domesticated plant crops. Although diploid, it has a very large genome of 5.1 Gigabases. Nils Stein and colleagues describe a physical map anchored to a high-resolution genetic map, on top of which they have overlaid a deep whole-genome shotgun assembly, cDNA and RNA-seq data to provide the first in-depth genome-wide survey of the barley genome.

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