Slicing Into The Bread Wheat Genome

Bread wheat (Triticum aestivum) is a globally important crop that accounts for 20% of the calories consumed by the world’s human population. Major work is underway to increase wheat production by expanding knowledge of the wheat genome and analysing key traits, however due to the large size and great complexity of the bread wheat genome progress has been slow. Now scientists from a number of organisations including the Centre for Genome Research at the University of Liverpool, the University of Bristol, University of California and the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research service have been working to sequence the genome and identify several classes of genes involved in crop productivity. The analysis provides a resource for improving this major crop by identifying variation in useful traits such as yield and nutrient content, thereby contributing to sustainable increases in wheat production.

Wheat (Triticum aestivum), one of the world's most important food crops © David Monniaux via Wikimedia Commons (License CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Wheat (Triticum aestivum), one of the world’s most important food crops © David Monniaux via Wikimedia Commons (License CC-BY-SA 3.0)

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Watermelon Genome Could Hold the Key to Improved Varieties With Fewer Pest Problems

A research team led by the Beijing Academy of Agriculture and Forestry Sciences have produced the complete genomic sequence of watermelon (Citrullus lanatus). It is hoped that the genomic data from this study will shape future research into watermelon genetics and provide a good resource for crop genetics and future plant breeding projects, resulting in improved watermelon cultivars with a greater degree of pest resistance.

Watermelons suffer large yield losses due to many pests and diseases and it is hoped that new genetic research can be used to improve varieties to make them less susceptible to pathogens ©Steve Evans via Wikimedia Commons (License CC-BY-2.0).

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Sweet Like Chocolate: Breeding Programs Combating Fungal Diseases of Cocoa in Ecuador

Chocolate, a popular product of Cocoa © Andre Karwath (Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.5 license)

Cocoa, Theobroma cacao L. is the third most important export product in Ecuador; a country which produces 70% of the world’s highly prized Arriba cocoa. However, the sustainability of this crop is threatened by a number of devastating pest species including fungal diseases and insect pests. Among the most severe are the closely related fungal diseases Witches’ Broom Disease Moniliophthora perniciosa and Frosty Pod Rot Moniliophthora roreri, both of which occur in Ecuador. Frosty Pod Rot is an invasive disease which was originally identified in Ecuador in 1917 and has since spread rapidly to other Latin American countries. The fungal pathogen that causes Witches’ Broom Disease is a close relative of Frosty Pod Rot in the same Moniliophthora genus. In addition to the Moniliophthora diseases, Phytophthora spp. can lead to Black Rot of cocoa.These fungal diseases are a principle constraint on world cocoa production and affect the pods, flowers, leaves and stems, causing a decline in production and reduction in bean quality with infested plantations suffering dramatic yield losses and in some cases total loss of production. Breeding for disease resistance in cocoa is a key factor in maintaining sustainability of cocoa, since there is widespread concern over fungicide resistance, the safety and effectiveness of widespread pesticide use and recent tightening of regulations regarding pesticide residues on cocoa. The INIAP, national research institute of Ecuador, in collaboration with Mars Chocolate and the USDA is investing in substantial cocoa breeding programs with the aim of developing more productive, disease resistant, high yielding cocoa plants for Ecuadorian cocoa farmers.  Read more of this post

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