Crop Biotech Update

White Guinea Yam Genome Sequenced

September 27, 2017

An international collaboration that includes the Earlham Institute, Norwich in the UK, and the Iwate Biotechnology Research Centre in Japan, has for the first time provided a genome sequence for the white Guinea yam. It is a staple crop considered to have huge economic and cultural significance on the African continent and a lifeline for millions of people.

The big breakthrough from this international collaboration has been in identifying the genomic region that determines sex in yams (dioecy), and found yam sex to be to be female heterogametic (male=ZZ, female=ZW). Knowledge of this rare feature is important in improving the speed of marker-assisted breeding projects. The research group developed a molecular marker for sexing yams at the seedling stage. Yams are a staple part of the Nigerian diet, and unlike other staple crops such as rice, maize, and wheat, the crop is relatively undomesticated. The new knowledge will help transform yam from being an orphan crop into a domesticated one.

For more, visit the Earlham Institute Newsroom.