Foodsecurity Quinoa genome accelerates solutions

Quinoa

Research.

An international team of scientists, including quinoa breeding experts from Wageningen University & Research, published the complete DNA sequence of quinoa. Quinoa is the food crop that is conquering the world (Nature magazine on 8 February 2017). Quinoa is rich in essential amino acids and nutritional fibres. It does not contain gluten. The crop is important to farmers as it provides a reasonable yield. Even on poor soils. The new knowledge about quinoa DNA is already being used by breeders who are developing quinoa varieties. These grow well in saline soil and still meet the taste requirements of consumers.

DNA
The scientists determined the sequence of the DNA-building blocks of the entire quinoa genome. The total length of the DNA, the ‘genome’, consists over a little over 1.3 billion DNA building blocks (the nucleotides A, C, G or T), divided over 18 chromosomes. Printed on paper this would add up to over 500,000 pages of text.

To map the DNA building blocks, the scientists used a smart combination of various DNA sequencing techniques. While this enabled them to put together ever-larger DNA segments in the computer from the huge amount of DNA information available, it did not lead to the 18 segments which represent the 18 chromosomes. The scientists therefore applied genetic maps that were made by crossbreeding plants to determine how molecular markers were inherited by the offspring. This allowed them to place most of the DNA on 18 large DNA-strains, representing the quinoa chromosomes.

Robert van Loo, expert in quinoa breeding at Wageningen University & Research. He says it was this combination that allowed the scientists to clearly map the DNA. “We were able to determine the location on the chromosome of no less than 85% of the DNA-sequence. This is a major benefit for plant breeders.”

 
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