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BC-Led Team to Sequence Sunflower Genome

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – A team led by researchers from the University of British Columbia is undertaking a project aimed at sequencing and characterizing the sunflower genome, Genome British Columbia announced today.

The "Genomics of Sunflower" project, funded by Genome Canada, Genome BC, the US Departments of Energy and Agriculture, and France's National Institute for Agricultural Research or INRA, is expected to cost $10.5 million.

"Genome BC is very pleased to support this innovative project, which will capitalize on Canada's strong genomics infrastructure and leadership in sunflower genomics, in collaboration with other experts worldwide," Genome BC President and CEO Alan Winter said in a statement. "The potential applications of this research are extremely important, both globally and locally."

The effort will involve the use of genotyping and sequencing to sequence, assemble, and annotate the 3.5-billion-base sunflower genome — and develop a reference genome that can be used to study the 24,000 or so species in the sunflower family.

In the process, researchers hope to identify genes involved in commercially important sunflower traits, including the oil content of seeds, seed dormancy, flowering, and wood production.

They are also interested in exploring the possibility of breeding a hybrid sunflower variety by crossing the tall, quick-growing, drought-resistant, woody Silverleaf sunflowers with commercial sunflower plants that have high quality seeds — a strategy that could produce a crop plant with several usable products.

"The seeds would be harvested for food and oil, while the stalks would be utilized for wood or converted to ethanol," UBC researcher Loren Rieseberg, who is leading the Genomics of Sunflower project, said in a statement. "As a dual-use crop it wouldn't be in competition with food crops for land."

Last spring, researchers at UBC received C$10.5 million ($10.2 million) from Genome Canada and its partners to support sunflower genomics work.

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