19 July 2024
Cracking pear genome: A collaborative revolution

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Unlocking the Pear Genome: Revolutionizing Pear Breeding

Pears have long been a staple of the Pacific Northwest US economy, but the traditional methods of pear breeding have remained largely unchanged for centuries. This slow and labor-intensive process has posed challenges in terms of cost and resources. However, a groundbreaking collaboration between students, scientists, and the pear industry has introduced a new tool – the pear genome.

The initiative, known as the American Campus Tree Genomes (ACTG), was initially conceived to sequence the DNA of Auburn University’s iconic Toomer’s Oak trees, which were poisoned in 2010. The goal was to create the first-ever live-oak reference genome, and to involve students in the sequencing process. Dr. Alex Harkess, one of the co-founders of ACTG, highlights the program’s aim to merge iconic trees with cutting-edge genomics to provide students with hands-on experience in genome analysis and publication.

Empowering Students Through Genomic Research

The success of the first semester at Auburn University paved the way for the nationwide expansion of the ACTG initiative. Founded in 2021, ACTG offers students a unique opportunity to engage in genomic research by working on assembling, analyzing, and publishing tree genomes in prestigious scientific journals. By providing access to genome sequencing techniques and bioinformatics skills, students gain valuable experience and confidence, preparing them for careers in genomics.

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One such student, Harrison Estes, shares his experience of participating in the ACTG class focused on the pear genome. Despite having no prior experience in bioinformatics, he emerged with a new skill set that propelled him into graduate studies. The emphasis on student participation in ACTG not only offers technical training but also addresses barriers to STEM entry and persistence, particularly for individuals without access to advanced technologies.

Transforming the Pear Industry with Genomic Discoveries

The collaborative efforts of ACTG students with pear experts at Washington State University and USDA ARS have led to a significant breakthrough in pear genomics. By creating a high-quality pear genome, the students have provided valuable insights for pear breeders. The fully phased chromosome-scale assembly of the d’Anjou genome unveiled numerous genomic variants crucial for pear breeding efforts.

The publication of the d’Anjou genome assembly in G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics marks a milestone in the genomic research of pears. This comprehensive resource not only benefits pear growers and consumers but also serves as a vital tool for studying the evolution, domestication, and molecular breeding of pears. Ines Hanrahan, Executive Director of the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, acknowledges the dual impact of the ACTG program in building genomic resources and educating students and scientists in the apple and pear industry.

Future Implications and the Power of Genomic Research

The success story of the ACTG initiative highlights the transformative power of genomic research in revolutionizing traditional academic models and fostering innovation in the pear industry. By engaging students in real-world research projects with tangible outcomes, ACTG not only equips them with valuable skills but also translates their knowledge into practical applications that benefit scientific communities and economically important industries.

The unlocking of the pear genome represents a significant step forward in enhancing pear breeding efforts and exploring the genetic diversity of this beloved fruit. As students continue to contribute to genomic research through initiatives like ACTG, the future holds promising opportunities for advancing agricultural practices, improving crop yields, and shaping the landscape of genomic science.

Links to additional Resources:

1. www.ars.usda.gov 2. www.extension.umn.edu 3. www.hort.purdue.edu

Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: Pear breeding, Genomic research, Washington State University

Opuntia, commonly called the prickly pear cactus, is a genus of flowering plants in the cactus family Cactaceae, many known for their flavorful fruit and showy flowers. Prickly pear alone is more commonly used to refer exclusively to the fruit, but may also be used for the plant itself; in...
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BGI Group
BGI Group, formerly Beijing Genomics Institute, is a Chinese genomics company with headquarters in Yantian District, Shenzhen. The company was originally formed in 1999 as a genetics research center to participate in the Human Genome Project. It also sequences the genomes of other animals, plants and microorganisms.BGI has transformed from...
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Washington State University
Washington State University (WSU) (or colloquially and informally Wazzu) is a public land-grant research university in Pullman, Washington. Founded in 1890, WSU is also one of the oldest land-grant universities in the American West. With an undergraduate enrollment of 24,278 and a total enrollment of 28,581, it is the second...
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