UK crop researchers could boost yields of a vitally important global food crop by going back to its wild relatives to find new sources of disease resistance.
Cassava (Manihot esculenta) is an important staple for over 500 million people worldwide, grown for food and known in its dried form as tapioca, as animal feed and as a fuel source. The crop’s importance is set to grow with changing climates, but so too will threats from a number of pests and diseases which can devastate yield.
Researchers from Cranfield University and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew have constructed the metabolic fingerprint of British heritage apples and mainstream commercial varieties. This has highlighted the extraordinary phytochemical content of some very old apples, with dates of introduction spanning several centuries.
The results show key metabolites, with enhanced health promoting properties, have gradually been bred out from modern cultivars with the focus instead being on sweetness, crispy texture and appearance.
Scientists have developed a new improved method for capturing longer DNA fragments, doubling the size up to 7000 DNA bases that can be analysed for novel genes which provide plants with immunity to disease.