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BBSRC, Scotland Provide $4.7M for Onion, Potato Genomics Projects

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The UK's Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Scottish Government have funded two genomics-based projects under a new £3 million ($4.7 million) joint initiative that will focus on developing new ways to improve potato and onion crops.

The funding, which supported a total of four projects, was awarded under BBSRC's Horticulture and Potato Initiative, and the Scottish Government contributed £627,000 to support the efforts, the BBSRC said on Wednesday.

One research team, based at the James Hutton Institute in Dundee, Scotland, will look into the process that causes potatoes and onions to sprout while they are in storage, with the aim of reducing losses. Hutton and its partners will receive a total of £1 million from the BBSRC and Scotland to fund the effort.

Led by Hutton Institute investigator Glenn Bryan, the research team will seek to identify the genetic basis of dormancy and sprouting in both crops and try to discover the physiological and molecular control steps involved in the process. Bryan's partners include Imperial College London, the University of Greenwich, Cranfield University, PepsiCo, and others.

Another group, led by the University of Warwick, was funded to use next-generation sequencing to study the pathogen Fusarium oxysporum, a fungus that attacks a number of plants, including onions.

The BBSRC said this fungus leads to £11M in losses to UK farmers each year.

The investigators plan to use sequencing to study previously identified onion lines that have shown increased resistance to F. oxysporum, which hopefully will provide information, tools, and resources that can be used to develop better and more sustainable measures to control losses caused by the fungus.