Grass genes could help scientists breed crops better adapted to drought, high temperatures

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Image source: Biosciences for Farming in Africa

Researchers from Cornell and the United States Department of Agriculture will tap into genetic information found in more than 700 species of related grasses, in hopes of making [food crops] resilient to extreme weather brought about by climate change.

By studying the genetics of grass species so closely related to [maize, sorghum and sugarcane], the researchers will be able to mine genes that encompass roughly 1.5 billion years of evolutionary history.

“Each generation of plants out in the field experiences various types of weather and environments, and the ones that succeed, pass on those genes to the next generation,” said project principal investigator Ed Buckler, a research geneticist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA–ARS) and adjunct professor of plant breeding and genetics with Cornell’s Institute of Biotechnology.

Related article:  Does GMO corn increase crop yields? 21 years of data confirm it does—and provides substantial health benefits

“As we try to breed crops that are better adapted to climate change, we’re now able to tap into this massive amount of evolutionary time and genetic history that we haven’t been able to do by just looking at one species,” Buckler said.

The researchers will …. sequence the genomes of the Andropogonae grasses …. each species will be compared with one another and to maize and sorghum. The researchers plan to identify functionally important base pairs …. in the genomes that may be mutated in maize and sorghum and could be preventing these crops from being as well-adapted or high-yielding as possible

Read full, original article: Grass genes tapped to breed better crops

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