Fans of tomatoes would agree that most store-bought varieties lack flavor.A group of scientists from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the Boyce Thompson Institute has found a solution to the problem of no taste in tomatoes.Scientists have constructed the pan-genome for the cultivated tomato and its wild relatives mapping nearly 5,000 previously undocumented genes.The pan-genome includes all of the genes from 725 different cultivated and closely related wild tomatoes.The research found that 4,873 genes were absent from the original reference genome.Researchers say that tomatoes today have a narrow genetic base and that the pan-genome helps identify what additional genes beyond the reference might be available for crop breeding and improvement.
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Scientists at Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) and the National Engineering Research Center for Vegetables in Beijing have sequenced the genomes of two important pumpkin species, Cucurbita maxima and Cucurbita moschata."Pumpkins are used as a staple food in many developing countries and are cultivated all over the world for their culinary and ornamental uses," said Zhangjun Fei, associate professor at BTI, Cornell adjunct associate professor of plant pathology and a senior author of the paper.Over two-thirds of the world's pumpkins, squash and gourds are produced in Asia alone.The researchers sequenced the two different pumpkin species to better understand their contrasting desirable traits: Cucurbita moschata is known for its resistance to disease and other stresses, such as extreme temperatures, while C. maxima is better known for its fruit quality and nutrition.Growers will cut the pumpkin seedling from its roots, and fuse the stems of other cucurbits onto it, giving them strong, resistant roots to grow from.Once deciphered, the genome sequences are an important resource for further scientific research and breeding of Cucurbita crops.
Researchers at the Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI), the University of Minnesota, the University of California, Davis, and Iowa State University have received a four-year $10.3 million award to engineer insect-vectored viruses to express genes in maize that can help in combatting disease, drought, and other yield-reducing stresses.The research project, titled Viruses and Insects as Plant Enhancement Resources (VIPER), is supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Insect Allies program."The vision of Blake Bextine, a program manager at DARPA, was to develop insect-vectored viruses that can be used to modify crop plants to respond to emerging threats in real time," according to Georg Jander, VIPER Project Leader and BTI professor.The productivity of maize, the most economically important crop in the United States, can be negatively impacted by insect pests, drought, and other environmental stresses.Although classical breeding is commonly used to improve maize, the process is slow and breeders often are unable to respond quickly enough to new threats.Other responses to biotic and abiotic threats, including the use of chemical pesticides and irrigation, can be expensive, inefficient, or cause unwanted environmental damage.
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