Posted on 27 November 2014
The three-year study is one of seven involving collaborations between researchers in the UK and India which aim to provide crops suitable for a changing climate and to produce more food with fewer inputs.
Researchers from CNAP, part of the Department of Biology at York, will work with scientists from the University of Delhi to improve the diversity of the Brassica species -- oilseed rape, cultivated widely in the UK, and mustard rape which is grown extensively in India.
Among oilseed crops, they are second in global production only to soybean. Vegetable oils are an important part of the human diet, providing essential fatty acids.
The research will aim to broaden the genetic bases of the crops and identify the genes underpinning trait variation in both. As well as being important crops, the Brassica species represent an excellent system for scientists to study the evolution of genomes and the quantitative control of traits in the constituent genes.
Oilseed rape and mustard rape which diverged from a common ancestor each have two genes, of which one is common to both. The researchers will examine the traits of importance in the respective second genes with a view to improving genetic diversity and ultimately the commercial production of both mustard rape and oilseed rape. .
Professor Ian Bancroft, who will lead the research in CNAP, said: “What we are aiming to do is to provide the genetic platform to aid breeders to identify markers for important traits such as oil, protein and glucosinolates in both species. It is an extension of work we are already doing at York and will involve sharing genetic resources with colleagues in Delhi. There will also be a strong training element.”
The £600,000 research has been made possible thanks to £5 million funding from the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and matched resources from India's Department of Biotechnology (DBT).
Professor Jackie Hunter, Chief Executive, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, said: “These projects combine the strengths of researchers in India and the UK to help provide solutions to increasing food demands. Advances in sequencing, genomic and bioinformatic tools enable us to improve crops more rapidly than ever before to facilitate the step-change in agricultural productivity that will be required to feed the world sustainably.”