Friday, June 7, 2013

Genomes for Africa

This link tells the story of how the Mars company (yes, that Mars-bar company) has decided to fund the sequencing of several plant genomes and post the information online. That's cool enough, but look at the list of included genomes: yam, finger millet, tef, groundnut, cassava and sweet potato, among others. These are staple crops in the developing world, and therefore they have eluded sequencing money, until now.

How this could really help is probably not in detailed gene manipulations, but in more mundane areas: grafting/cross-overs to make stronger crops and investigations into the plants' defenses against fungi. It's already helped with the cacao genome, funded and implemented in the same way a few years back.

Wouldn't this make a great project for undergraduates to investigate, using biochemistry in a way to help farmers across the world? I for one can't wait for these to come out. Biochemistry students of the future, you may have a lab exercise in this area. 

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