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Quinoa genome decoded - Targeted breeding of superfoods
An international team of researchers has successfully decoded the Qunioa genome. The experts hope that the new findings can contribute to the targeted cultivation of the superfood. The demand for healthy Andean grains is increasing.
Quinoa was grown thousands of years ago
Quinoa is one of the oldest crops. It comes from the Andean region and has been grown there for 6,000 years. Grain has become increasingly popular in Germany in recent years. Because the seeds of the superfood form ingredients with very high nutritional quality. The fat contained largely consists of valuable unsaturated fatty acids. Quinoa also contains many important minerals such as magnesium, iron, potassium and calcium.
Botanically speaking, quinoa is not a grass like wheat and oats, but is used similarly to cereals. The pseudo grain is therefore suitable for people with grain intolerance, among other things.
The protein-rich food is also recommended for vegans. Quinoa can help you lose weight and protect against diseases. Quinoa can also provide valuable services for various deficiency symptoms, such as iron deficiency.
Plant grows under unfavorable conditions
It is also particularly noteworthy that the plants grow even under unfavorable environmental conditions such as drought and salt stress. The increasing demand in recent years has pushed the price of quinoa up sharply.
An international team of researchers, including some from the Christian Albrechts University in Kiel (CAU), has now gained important insights that could contribute to the targeted breeding of superfoods.
Quinoa has never been fully domesticated
As the CAU reports in a recent release, the Quinoa genome has been decrypted under the direction of Professor Mark Tester from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Djiddah (Saudi Arabia).
The research results of the project, in which a total of 33 scientists from four continents were involved, were published in the current online edition of the journal "Nature".
“Quinoa was a major culture of the ancient Andean civilizations, but after the Spanish conquest it lost much of its importance. This means that quinoa has never been fully domesticated and, despite the balanced ratio of positive ingredients, its genetic potential has not yet been fully exploited, ”said Professor Tester.
Targeted breeding is accelerated
According to the communication, a new method was used for sequencing, which allows very large fragments to be sequenced. This allowed an almost complete sequence to be created that was anchored to the chromosomes.
According to the information, the high quality of this sequence made it possible to identify and characterize genes that are important for breeding.
"This will greatly accelerate targeted breeding to improve genetic potential," says Professor Christian Jung, who, together with Dr. Nadine Dally, both from the Institute of Plant Cultivation and Plant Breeding at Kiel University, was involved in the research project.
Formation of the bitter substance saponin
According to the experts, one problem with the use of the crop is the formation of a bitter substance (saponin) in the seeds: "We have identified the genes responsible for this and can now grow saponin-free plants in a targeted manner," explained Tester.
Furthermore, the selection of short-straw types with better stability is on the program. Such plants are then able to produce more seeds without buckling.
The time of flowering is of particular interest to the Kiel researchers. "We are also thinking about growing quinoa in Central Europe," said Dally.
"But for that it is necessary to change the flowering time. Quinoa is a tropical plant that is adapted to short days. With us it has to bloom in the long day. We have already identified the genes responsible for this and can now start looking for advantageous gene variants in a worldwide quinoa range. ”(Ad)