Canola genome paves the way for better crops

From ABC News in Science, 22 August 2014:

The canola plant is set for an overhaul to boost its oil content, make it more disease-resistant, and help it adapt to climate change, thanks to the sequencing of its genome.

An international team of scientists report the sequencing of the Brassica napus genome today in Science .

Brassica napus — also known as canola or oilseed rape — is an essential food crop, providing canola oil for cooking and biofuel, and seed meal for animal fodder.

Canola was hybridised around 7500 years ago from two other Brassica species: Brassica rapa, which includes plants such as Chinese cabbage, and Brassica oleracea, the species that includes broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.

Sequencing of the genome reveals the two sub-genomes have been swapping and rationalising their genetic material since that time, aided by human breeding efforts.

“We could see that by cultivating oil seed types, we got accelerated loss of glucosinolate genes, because glucosinolate tastes bad and isn’t good for human consumption and animal consumption,” says co-author Professor Jacqueline Batley, Future Fellow at the School of Plant Biology, University of Western Australia.

“You can start to look at it in terms of what’s required for it to be effective as a cultivated crop, compared to what would have been require for it if it was just out in the wild,” Batley says. Read more.

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