Big Idea, Indeed


The ability to sequence plant genomes is revolutionizing plant breeding and crop research in much the same way that sequencing the human genome revolutionized medicine. As plant sequences become available, new tools are needed to analyze data about those sequences. As this graphic shows, the amount of information available for each crop is staggering.

A team of CFANS researchers, funded via the MnDRIVE initiative, recently created such an informatics tool, using disease resistance genes in Rosaceae as a model. (Rosaceae is a horticulturally important plant family that includes not just roses, but fruit crops such as apple, peach and strawberry as well.) Why are special informatics tools needed?

The new framework—known as RosaR80, which is short for “Rosaceae Resistance genes at 80% DNA identity”—is now publicly available. It allows researchers to compare thousands of genes from distantly related plant species, which in turn facilitates development of DNA markers for breeding varieties with better disease resistance, easy mapping and cloning of disease resistance genes, and identification of useful genes in wild relatives of crop plants.

big idea