In a breakthrough, a team of scientists at ICAR’s National Research Centre on Pomegranate has completed the genome sequencing for pomegranate that will help in increasing its yield and production.
The ICAR-National Research Centre on Pomegranate (ICAR-NRCP), Solapur (Maharashtra), was established on June 16, 2005 by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research as a step to strengthen research and development infrastructure for pomegranate crop.
“In a path-breaking development for genome research and horticultural science in India, a team of scientists has completed the genome sequencing for pomegranate, known as a wonder fruit to many,” ICAR-NRCP said in a statement.
For the first time anywhere in India, the ICAR-NRCP team has been able to identify all the bases of DNA material in perfect sequence. This led to unlocking of several genetic mysteries such as identifying particular genes responsible for sweetness, seed softness or colour of the fruit, those responsible for disease and pest resistance, and those for the enlargement of the fruit size, among others.
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The fruit used has been cv. Bhagawa, an Indian pomegranate.
The ICAR-NRCP announced the release of Reference Quality Genome Assembly of Indian pomegranate cv. Bhagawa last week on its 18th foundation day.
The team involved in this landmark research comprised Dr N V Singh, Dr P Roopa Sowjanya, Dr Shilpa Parashuram, Dr P G Patil and Dr R A Marathe, all at ICAR-NRCP, Solapur.
It took six years in accomplishing full genomic sequencing of this Indian pomegranate.
The reference-quality genome assembly of the ‘Bhagawa’ developed by ICAR-NRCP is a huge reservoir of publicly accessible genomic resources for pomegranate researchers across the globe and will provide a great impetus to the pomegranate improvement programme in India, the statement said.
“These genomic resources will assist the pomegranate genetic improvement programmes of different research organisations, including ICAR-NRCP through genomics assisted trait mapping, breeding and genome editing applications to develop improved varieties with resistance/tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses,” the ICAR-NRCP said.
The genome sequencing experiment was executed at Nucleome Informatics, a Hyderabad-based genomics lab.
India has increased production in recent years and has been a world leader in pomegranate production with a 50 per cent contribution to global production. Still, India’s domestic capacity as well as export potential has still remained largely unrealised.
“This has been due to an assortment of reasons, including the limited availability of genomic resources and molecular information about this highly remunerative crop. Being a high value crop, until now, due to lack of resistant pomegranate varieties against major pests and diseases, there has been a very high dependence on chemical pesticides for managing biotic stresses,” said Dr R A Marathe, Director at ICAR-NRCP.
The whole genome sequencing of this fruit, he said, will open up incredible avenues for vastly improving yield, growing much better and safer varieties for human nutritional needs.
Dr A K Singh, DDG (Horticultural Science) at ICAR, said, pomegranate supports the livelihood security of an estimated 2.5 lakh farm families mostly in climatically and edaphically-challenged regions.
On the export side, it has been estimated that India exports an abysmal 2-3 per cent of its indigenous production which is far below its real potential, he added.