To feed the growing human population, global wheat yields should increase to approximately 5 tonnes per ha from the current 3.3 tonnes by 2050. To reach this goal, existing breeding practices must be complemented with new techniques built upon recent gains from wheat genome sequencing, and the accumulated knowledge of genetic determinants underlying the agricultural traits responsible for crop yield and quality. In this review we primarily focus on the tools and techniques available for accessing gene functions which lead to clear phenotypes in wheat. We provide a view of the development of wheat transformation techniques from a historical perspective, and summarize how techniques have been adapted to obtain gain-of-function phenotypes by gene overexpression, loss-of-function phenotypes by expressing antisense RNAs (RNA interference or RNAi), and most recently the manipulation of gene structure and expression using site-specific nucleases, such as CRISPR/Cas9, for genome editing. The review summarizes recent successes in the application of wheat genetic manipulation to increase yield, improve nutritional and health-promoting qualities in wheat, and enhance the crop's resistance to various biotic and abiotic stresses.