Aegilops Tauschii



Illustration by Emma Waller

The discovery of genetic diversity in Ae. tauschii associated with traits of interest can help accelerate wheat improvement. To address this aim, we seek to comprehensively characterize the genetic diversity of this wild relative of wheat.

Genetic History

Hexaploid bread wheat, Triticum aestivum (genome constitution AABBDD), emerged from two successive hybridization events from diploid progenitors 5.5 million and 8,000 years ago, respectively.

The progenitor of the D genome is the wild wheat species Aegilops tauschii. This goatgrass has a natural distribution ranging from East Turkey to China and West Pakistan.

Ae. tauschii is classified into three lineages, namely lineage 1 (L1), lineage 2 (L2), and lineage 3 (L3). The wheat D sub-genome resulted from at least two hybridization events with predominantly L2 and L3 donors, respectively. 

This wild wheat species is a suitable model system for studying trait variation transferrable to wheat. It has a diploid genome of 4.36 Gb, nearly four times smaller than that of hexaploid wheat (16 Gb).

Phase 1

The Open Wild Wheat Consortium phase I was completed in 2021 with the publication of our research article in Nature Biotechnology. The publication took five years in the making and gathered 78 co-authors from 38 institutions around the world.

We established a diverse panel of 242 inbred and genotypically non-redundant accessions of Aegilops tauschii from across its natural geographic range.

The Ae. tauschii panel includes 116 accessions from Lineage 1, 121 from Lineage 2, and 5 from Lineage 3, displaying extensive variation in morphological traits and disease resistance.

Geographical distribution of the Aegilops tauschii accessions included in the diversity panel. The accessions are color coded according to their lineage. Figure 1a taken from Gaurav et al., 2021.

Output of Phase 1


Seed for the OWWC diversity panel is publicly available in the Germplasm Resources Unit (GRU) of the John Innes Centre, UK.
– GRU Collection: Open Wild Wheat Consortium Ae. tauschii Diversity Panel


Data generated by the OWWC and published in Gaurav et al. 2021 is available in public repositories as described here.
Scripts and pipelines for the bioinformatics analyses described in Gaurav et al. 2021 are available in the Github repository: wheatgenetics/owwc.


How bread wheat got its gluten: Tracing the impact of a long-lost relative on modern bread wheat – Press release by JIC Communications (Nov 2021) 

2020 BGRI Virtual Technical Workshop:
Exploiting diversity in the bread wheat D-genome progenitor. Presented by Kumar Gaurav. (Oct 2020)

New genomic tool searches wheat’s wild past to improve crops of the future –Press release by JIC Communications (Apr 2018)

Research Team


Phase 2

The Open Wild Wheat Consortium Phase II began in January of 2022.

We are expanding the previous Ae. tauschii OWWC panel of 242 non-redundant accessions to over 600 accessions from Lineages 1, 2, and 3, constituting one of the largest collections of this wild wheat species.

Whole genome shotgun (WGS) sequencing between 7.5 and 10-fold coverage of the additional accessions will be carried out to generate an extensive sequence-configured panel for this wild wheat.

The hallmark of the OWWC Phase II will be the creation of an Aegilops tauschii pangenome resource.
Aegilops tauschii spike. Credits: Jing Lu

The pangenome will be generated from high-quality reference assemblies for a collection of 44 accessions. These accessions are strategically important to the consortium, as well as representative of the genetic diversity across the previously genotyped panel in Phase I.

Phylogeny of the OWWC Phase I diversity panel showing the relationships among Aegilops tauschii accessions from lineage 1 (orange), lineage 2 (red), and lineage 3 (purple) and hexaploid wheat accessions (green) -adapted from Gaurav et al., 2021. The selected pangenome accessions are highlighted in bold within each clade. Not all accessions are shown since some were not resequenced in OWWC Phase I.

Research Team

  • Ahmed Elkot, Agricultural Research Center, Egypt
  • Ali Mehrabi, Research Institute of Forests and Rangelands, Iran
  • Amir Sharon, Tel Aviv University, Israel
  • Andrea GonzalezThe Wulff Lab, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
  • Awais Rasheed,  Quaid-i-Azam University, Pakistan
  • Brande Wulff, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
  • Brian Steffenson, University of Minnesota, USA
  • Dengcai Liu, Sichuan Agricultural University, Chengdu, China
  • Dragan Perovic, Julius Kühn-Institut, Germany
  • Firuza Nasyrova, National Academy of Sciences of Tajikistan, Tajikistan
  • Gurcharn Brar, University of British Columbia, Canada
  • Jan Dvorak, University of California Davis, USA
  • Jesse Poland, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
  • Jochen Cristoph Reif, Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) Gatersleben, Germany
  • Jon Raupp, Kansas State University, USA
  • Jong-Yeol Lee, National Institute of Agricultural Science, Republic of Korea
  • Long Mao, Institute of Crop Science, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, China
  • Luke Dunning, University of Sheffield, United Kingdom
  • Martin Mascher, Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) Gatersleben, Germany
  • Mehraj Abbasov, Genetic Resources Institute of Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences, Azerbaijan
  • Nils Stein, Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) Gatersleben, Germany
  • Noam ChayutGermplasm Resource Unit, John Innes Centre, United Kingdom
  • Parveen Chhuneja, Punjab Agricultural University, India
  • Peng Zhang, University of Sydney, Australia
  • Robert Park, University of Sydney, Australia
  • Samira Rustamova, Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences, Azerbaijan
  • Sanzhen Liu, Kansas State University, USA
  • Simon Krattinger, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
  • Steven Xu, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, USA
  • Surbhi Grewal, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom
  • Vijay K Tiwari, University of Maryland, USA
  • Wanlong Li, South Dakota State University, USA
  • Xiangyang Xu, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, USA
  • Yong Gu, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, USA

Data Utilization

The raw data generated in Phase II will be made available under Toronto agreement.

By using the data you will agree to:

  • Respect the rights of the data producers and contributors to analyze and publish the first global analyses and certain other reserved analyses of this data set in a peer-reviewed publication
  • Not redistribute, release, or otherwise provide access to the data to anyone outside of the group, until the data has been published and submitted to the public data repositories
  • Contact the authors to discuss any plans to publish data or analyses that utilize this data to avoid the overlap of any planned analyses
  • Fully cite the pre-publication data along with any applicable versioning details
  • Understand that this data as accessed is pre-competitive and is not patentable in its present state

This agreement does not expire by time but only upon publication of the first global analysis for the OWWC Phase II by the data producers and contributors.

Aegilops sharonesis


Wild Emmer Wheat