Friday, June 6, 2014

Agricultural round-up

These are bigger stories than their coverage indicates and when I get some time, I plan on tying them in with some ongoing threads (there's definitely a ddulite angle here).

Scientists Crack Sheep Genome, Shining Spotlight On Rumen Evolution And Lipid Metabolism
Shenzhen, June 5, 2014--- The latest study, led by scientists from Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, BGI and other institutes, presents a high-quality sheep genome and reveals genomic and transcriptomic events that may be associated with rumen evolution and lipid metabolism that have relevance to both diet and wool. The work was published online today in Science.

Sheep are ruminants with a complex, 4-compartmented "stomach", the largest compartment is the rumen, which is thought to have evolved around 35-40 million years ago, and has the ability of converting the ligno-cellulose rich plant materials into animal protein. Wool is the most economic feature of the sheep, while the synthesis of wool is supposed to be linked to fatty acid metabolism. The genome data yielded in this study will lead to a better understanding of all those unusual evolution traits of sheep.
3,000 rice genome sequences made publicly available on World Hunger Day
The open-access, open-data journal GigaScience (published by BGI and Biomed Central), announces today the publication of an article on the genome sequencing of 3000 rice strains along with the release of this entire dataset in a citable format in journal's affiliated open-access database, GigaDB. The publication and release of this enormous data set (which quadruples the current amount of publicly available rice sequence data) coincides with World Hunger Day to highlight one of the primary goals of this project— to develop resources that will aid in improving global food security, especially in the poorest areas of the world. This work is the completion of stage one of the 3000 Rice Genomes Project, a collaborative effort made up of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), and BGI, and is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology.

With more than 1/8th of the world's population living in extreme hunger and poverty, and an every-increasing world population (estimated to reach 9.6 billion by 2050), there is a huge need to create new resources to improve crop yield, reduce the impact of agricultural practices on the environment, and develop food crops that are of high yield and nutrition and can grow successfully in environments stressed by drought, pests, diseases, or poor soil quality. While rice research has greatly advanced since the completion of the first high-quality rice genome sequence in 2005, there has been limited change in breeding practices that are important for producing improved and better adapted rice strains.

The 3000 Rice Genomes Project provides a major step forward for addressing these challenges by creating and releasing an extensive amount of genetic information that can ultimately be applied to intelligent breeding practices, which take advantage of the natural variation between different plant strains and information on the genetic mechanisms that underlie these traits to select strains for breeding that will be more successful in producing hybrid strains with characteristics that are highly suited for growing successfully in different environments.
For a bit of context, here are some relevant previous posts.

First on the way media covers agricultural research:

Really not that damned funny (Insert Dowd joke here)

Earmarks and Agricultural Research

Sure it saved us twenty billion, but it sounds funny

and on agriculture in general

Back on the subject of agricultural research

How are genetically engineered crops like AAA rated structured bonds?

And one I still need to get to

Seed saving: An alternative to industrial agriculture in India

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