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October 12th, 2017 / Wageningen University

It is to be the second largest DNA dataset of plants in the world, after the one for rice. The Centre for Genetic Resources, the Netherlands, which is part of Wageningen University & Research, and China’s Beijing Genomics Institute have formed a unique partnership to unravel the DNA of the Wageningen lettuce collection. This is an important step towards a more sustainable agricultural sector that uses less pesticides.

To date, the gene bank had to make do with data on the origin of the material and the characteristics of the plants observed by researchers. The information that this partnership will generate paves the way to a ‘gene bank 2.0’. “This project has huge potential,” says Theo van Hintum of the Centre for Genetic Resources, the Netherlands (CGN). “We have been given access to a real treasure trove. Imagine if research on a variety of lettuce – or an entirely different plant – reveals that certain genes improve resistance to drought or a particular disease. We will then be able to look for lettuce varieties in our database that have very similar genes and predict which will be the best lettuce for breeding, without having to test them in the field. This is a revolutionary breakthrough!” Read more