Crop Biotech Update

Genome Sequencing Project Sheds Light on Date Palm's Origin

November 11, 2015

Researchers at New York University's Abu Dhabi campus have mapped the date palm genome. They identified more than 1 million mutations that are found between date palm varieties, and found genes that may be important in fruit ripening, fruit color, and disease resistance in dates.

The study also suggests that contemporary date palms descend from two distinct domestication events — an early event in the Middle East, and a later one in North Africa. A second hypothesis proposes that date palms were first cultivated in the Middle East and later spread to North Africa, but somewhere along the way North African dates were crossed with a wild predecessor.

The team analyzed the genome of 62 varieties of date palm from 12 countries. Seventeen samples came from North Africa; 36 inhabit the Middle East; nine are native to South Asia. They also discovered a genetic mutation that causes the trees to produce either yellow or red fruit, and that the date palm shares this genetic mutation with its very distant cousin, the oil palm.

For more information, read the news release at the New York University website.