Biotech Updates

Scientists to Create Sweet Potato Genomics Toolkit

November 6, 2009

Brian Scheffler and colleagues at the US Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have launched a project to create a genomics toolkit to help plant breeders develop improved sweetpotato varieties. Despite its importance, sweetpotato has an image of being an underrated crop with respect to research. Very little genomics information is available in a form that sweetpotato breeders can use to develop new varieties for enhanced nutrition or improved resistance to diseases and stress.

Scheffler and colleagues will work to develop and locate DNA markers on the 90 chromosomes of sweetpotato. They will also use a high-throughput DNA sequencer to develop a sweetpotato microarray for studying where, when and how certain genes are expressed. Of particular interest to Scheffler, who has received USD 120,000 in funding through the ARS' 2010 T.W. Edminster Award, are genes affecting rhizome production, especially during stress related to environmental factors such as drought.

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