Wild emmer wheat is an excellent reservoir of genetic variability that can be utilized to improve cultivated wheat to address the challenges of the expanding world population and climate change. Bearing this in mind, we have collected a panel of 263 wild emmer wheat (WEW) genotypes across the Fertile Crescent. The genotypes were grown in different locations and phenotyped for heading date. Genome-wide association mapping (GWAS) was carried out, and 16 SNPs were associated with the heading date, indicating potential candidates for the fine-tuning of the flowering time. As the flowering time is controlled by photoperiod and vernalization, we sequenced the VRN1
gene, the most important of the vernalization response genes, to discover new alleles. Our comprehensive sequence and expression analysis of the VRN1
alleles in the set of wild genotypes from Fertile Crescent provides an available reservoir of allelic diversity that could be introduced into breeding programs to expand the elite wheat gene pool.