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Breeding disease-resistant sugarcane now a possibility with unlocking of sugarcane genome

| October 17, 2018

For centuries, sugarcane has supplied human societies with alcohol, biofuel, building and weaving materials, and the world’s most relied-upon source of sugar. Now, researchers have extracted a sweet scientific prize from sugarcane: its massive and complex genome sequence, which may lead to the development of hardier and more productive cultivars.

Producing the comprehensive sequence required a concerted effort by over 100 scientists from 16 institutions; the work took five years and culminated in a publication in Nature Genetics.

The complete genome sequence was well worth the wait and the effort because of its potential to aid the effort to improve sugarcane. The sugarcane grown by most farmers is a hybrid of two species: Saccharum officinarum, which grows large plants with high sugar content, and Saccharum spontaneum, whose lesser size and sweetness is offset by increased disease resistance and tolerance of environmental stress.

Lacking a complete genome sequence, plant breeders have made high-yielding, robust strains through generations of crossing and selection, but this is an arduous process relying on time and luck.

Read full, original article: Success is sweet: Researchers unlock the mysteries of the sugarcane genome

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