11/20/09

Sequencing the Corn Genome.  The Washington Post has an article on the completion of mapping out the corn genome.  

"Many agronomists hope the information buried in corn's 32,000 genes and 2.3 billion letters of DNA may help sustain the century-long improvement in yield and hardiness into an era of climate change and, possibly, food shortage. ...There are at least 180 genes -- and perhaps as many as 1,270 -- present in some varieties but entirely missing in others. These genes (or groups of them) function like iPhone "apps," doing work that is essential for some users but unnecessary for others.  (Scientists think the merging of genetic apps may be one explanation for "hybrid vigor," which is the better performance of offspring compared with their parents.)  Knowing which genes carry non-universal traits -- such as the ability to survive in standing water or tolerance for drought -- will be extremely useful to plant breeders, said Richard K. Wilson, a human geneticist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis who helped lead the sequencing project.   'You want to see if you can get the two different desirable traits into the same plant,' Wilson said. 'When you have the genome, then you can pick and choose at the point where you have seeds. That is huge.'"

posted November 20, 2009 at  6:30 a.m.