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Sequenced corn genome

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists and their colleagues have completed a four-year effort to sequence the genome of corn, an achievement expected to speed up development of corn varieties that will help feed the world and meet growing demands for using this important grain crop as a biofuel and animal feed. The results represent the largest and most complex plant genome sequenced to date, and are the cover story in the November 20 issue of the journal Science.

The sequencing will help researchers uncover the relationships between corn genes and traits, develop an overall picture of the plant's genetic makeup, and broaden understanding of how the complex interplay of genetics and environment determines the plant's health and viability. The work also is expected to lead to development of corn varieties with higher yields and better tolerance of droughts, pests and diseases. It also should help scientists produce varieties with fibers, stalks and cellular structures that will make corn a better source of biofuel.

Corn, known among scientists as maize, is one of world's most important crops. Corn was a $47 billion crop in the United States last year. It is the largest production crop worldwide, providing not only food for billions of people and livestock, but also critical feedstock for production of biofuels. Ware said the work should serve as a foundation for understanding and improving on other agricultural crops as well. Plants previously sequenced include rice, sorghum, poplar, grape and Arabidopsis thaliana, a plant widely studied as a model organism.

by S. C.
23 november 2009, Technical Area > Science News