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Crop Biotech Update

Wageningen Scientists Unravel Onion Genome

July 21, 2021

Researchers from Wageningen University & Research (WUR) have unraveled the onion genome, a breakthrough that will help speed up the development of new onion varieties that are resistant to various stresses such as drought and meet the world's growing demand for onions.

Onion is one of the most widely grown vegetables in the world and an important part of people's diet and many countries' cuisines. However, onions are susceptible to diseases and breeding varieties resistant to drought and fungi has been a challenge. The size of the onion genome also proved a significant task because the onion genome is huge—about sixteen times larger than the tomato genome, and five times larger than that of humans.

According to plant breeder Richard Finkers, "Assembling the onion genome is comparable to completing a puzzle with 100,000 pieces, of which 95,000 are just bits of blue sky. Only 5000 pieces really make the difference." With the help of the latest DNA sequencing technologies, WUR researchers managed to assemble the small and large pieces that partially overlap. Plant breeders now expect that access to the onion genome sequence will double the speed of their breeding work, bringing it down to about six or seven years.

For more details, read the article in WUR News.

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