Biotech Updates

Brazil Nut Genome Sequenced to Enhance Breeding of Tree Species

March 16, 2022

An inter-agency team of Brazilian scientists took the initiative to sequence the genome of the Brazil nut tree to identify genes responsible for important traits like drought tolerance, pathogen-resistance, and reproductive compatibility in the hopes of preserving this Amazon icon.

This is the first time that a reference genome was created for the Brazil nut tree, with data coming from 30 Brazil nut tree populations found throughout the Brazilian Amazon region. Aside from identifying genes of desirable traits, scientists also aim to understand the influence of the environment in the structuring of the tree's genetic variability.

The sequence revealed the presence of genes of reproductive incompatibility making it easier to identify which individuals cannot breed with each other. This helps breeders in the selection of female individuals to be used in breeding programs. It also identified genes related to selenium metabolism, and pest- and disease-resistance. Lastly, the sequence exposed each plant genome's evolutionary history and from which region it has adapted to, which is crucial when developing conversation strategies and breeding programs for fruit production designed for the Brazil nut tree.

The genome sequence will significantly accelerate the breeding and genetic improvement of the species, as it usually takes 50 to 200 years to assess its full cycle and gather the needed data. The reference genome helps scientists shorten the path to the selection of superior plants and fast-track the recommendation of genetic material for commercial cropping.

The project was implemented through a collaboration among the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), the Federal University of São Carlos, and the University of Brasilia with support from the São Paulo State Research Support Foundation. Learn more about the project by reading the news release from Embrapa.

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