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Crop Biotech Update

Researchers Discover Key for Identifying Gender in Date Palm Trees

June 3, 2011

"A simple and reliable way to distinguish between male and female seedlings has long been sought, not only for agricultural purposes, but also to promote basic date palm studies, which have been hindered by dioecy and long generation times," Joel Malek, director of Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar's  (WCMC-Q) genomics lab said on his research published in the online edition of the journal Nature Biotechnology.

The researchers found that the gender is under genetic control through an X-Y system of gender inheritance similar to that of humans. Gender determination in date palm has been an age-old question for thousands of years. The economically-valuable female trees bear fruit after five to eight years, thus, determination of the gender early at its seedling stage is of primary importance to date palm growers.

Equipped with the 2009 draft sequence of the date palm genome, the research team will also conduct studies on salinity and high temperature tolerance, hoping to improve the date palm germplasm through genetic modification.

The original news can be seen at  http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/June11/wcmcqDatepalm.html.