September 25/Washington/Asian News International (ANI) -- Scientists have decoded the genome of the potato, with the first draft expected to help breeders improve yield, quality, disease resistance and nutritional value of the crop.
Potatoes are members of the Solanaceae family, as are tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, petunias and tobacco.
"The potato is the most important vegetable worldwide," said Robin Buell, an MSU (Michigan State University) associate professor of plant biology, who was part of the consortium that released the first draft sequence of the potato genome.
The Potato Genome Sequencing Consortium, an international team of 39 scientists from 14 countries, began work on the potato genome project in 2006.
The complete sequence is estimated to be 840 million base pairs, about one-quarter the size of the human genome.
Buell, along with Dave Douches, an MSU crop and soil sciences professor, is leading a 5.4 million dollars US Department of Agriculture grant research project to improve the quality, yield, drought tolerance and disease resistance of potatoes and tomatoes.
Known as the SolCAP project, the research aims to use emerging DNA sequence knowledge with basic research data to improve tomato and potato varieties.
"The timing of the release of the potato draft sequence is nice for the SolCAP project," Douches said. "We're combining genetics and breeding, so having a draft of the genome will help us find genetic markers for desirable traits in potatoes, which will make breeding more precise," he added.
Buell is determining which genes are expressed in specific potato plant tissue to better understand the tuber's growth and development. (ANI)
From the September 28, 2009, Prepared Foods E-dition