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Crop Biotech Update

Grass Genes for Breeding Better Crops

October 24, 2018

Researchers from Cornell University and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will tap into the genetic information of more than 700 species of related grasses, in hopes of making maize and sorghum more productive and resilient to extreme weather brought about by climate change.

The researchers will look into the Andropogonae tribe of grasses, which includes maize, sorghum, and sugarcane. They will mine genes of grass species that are closely related to these major crops, encompassing roughly 1.5 billion years of evolutionary history.

Advanced genomic techniques will be used to sequence the genomes of the Andropogonae grasses. Once the genomes of more than 700 species are sequenced, each species will be compared with one another and to maize and sorghum. The researchers plan to identify functionally important base pairs (basic units of DNA double-helix) in the genomes that may be mutated in maize and sorghum.

For more details, read the Cornell Chronicle.