Plant genomics: a bunch of trouble

  • Authors : Grimm, D.

  • Document type : Journal article

  • Year of publication : 2008

  • Journal title : Science

  • Number : 322

  • Pages : 1046-1047

  • Peer-reviewed : Yes

  • ISSN : 0036-8075; 1095-9203

  • Language(s) : English

  • Abstract : The banana is endangered and largely ignored by funding agencies, researchers, and breeders. However, things might finally be going its way. 2001 was supposed to be the year of the banana. That summer, a handful of researchers gathered in a small room at the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) in Arlington, Virginia, to form a consortium to sequence the fruit. Scientists had just deciphered the genome of Arabidopsis, with the rice genome close behind, and the banana community desperately wanted to be next. A new strain of soil fungus was threatening the commercial banana, and the community was convinced that a genome project could provide the genetic tools needed to save the crop. "The time was ripe," says Emile Frison, then head of the consortium. He predicted that within 5 years - a time period that would see the launch of major efforts to sequence corn, sorghum, and even green algae - banana buffs would have their genome. Today, they're still waiting. That's quite an indignity for one of the world's most popular fruits. Americans consume as many kilograms of bananas as apples and oranges combined, and in many African countries, bananas make up nearly half of all calories consumed. What's more, the banana most of us are familiar with - the Cavendish (Musa acuminata) - is in danger of disappearing. The soil fungus Frison fretted about in 2001 causes a nasty blight known as Panama disease that has devastated crops in Malaysia, the Philippines, and China. If the disease makes its way to Latin America, it could wipe out the Cavendish in less than 10 years. African bananas, too, have begun to disappear, victims of globalization and unsustainable farming practices. Yet the banana continues to sit on the shelf while other crops benefit from research dollars and attention. Some blame the United States for failing to support the fruit as it has other major food crops. Others blame the banana community for being too fragmented to unite behind a single project. And still others blame the banana itself, for a bizarre biology that frustrates breeders and researchers alike. (Author's abstract).


  • Open access : No

  • Document on publisher's site : close View article on publisher's site

  • Musalit document ID : IN090074

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