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Texas A&M Team Reaps $500K Grant for Cotton Genome Toolkit Project

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Scientists at Texas A&M University have been awarded a $500,000 grant from the US Department of Agriculture to use genome sequencing, molecular analysis, phenotyping, and other approaches to develop markers and trait-selection toolkits for improved cotton breeding, the university said today.

Texas A&M said investigators at its AgriLife Research Cotton Improvement Lab will use the funding from USDA's National Institute for Food and Agriculture to develop cotton breeding toolkits that can enhance traits like fiber yield and length, strength, uniformity, and others.

Professor Hongbin Zhang, director of Texas A&M's Laboratory for Plant Genomics and Molecular Genetics, said cotton has an economic impact of around $120 billion per year in the US.

The team on this project aims to develop a map of over 10,000 SNPs, "yielding a marker density map four-fold higher than those of existing cotton genetic maps," Texas A&M said in a statement.

Zhang said he and his partners have already constructed a genome-wide physical map of Upland cotton, which accounts for over 90 percent of the cotton in the US, and they are using that map as a platform to sequence the cotton genome.

The team also previously developed a population of 1,172 recombinant inbred lines that will be used to sequence the cotton genome, and they phenotyped seven of the traits for fiber quality and yield in 200 of those lines and then sequenced and profiled the gene expressions in the developing fibers from those lines.

"Now we want to develop a new and advanced breeding system in cotton, such as gene-based breeding, where we are selecting the target traits based on the genes controlling the traits, gene activities, and gene interaction networks," Zhang said.

The new studies aim to develop tools for the cloning and molecular characterization of genes and trait locations that are important for fiber quality and yield, and to develop a standard genome sequence for Upland cotton from the sequences generated previously by these research partners and other groups.

Zhang and his partners also plan to replicate field trials over two years at two locations in the Cotton Belt with the goal of accurately measuring the genetic variation of these traits and making sure that the genes controlling those traits are mapped reliably.