The International Potato Center (CIP) has tapped China’s Novogene Bioinformatics Technology company to provide sequencing and analysis capabilities for a research project that aims to sequence 10 new potato genomes. The partners announced the joint project at the ninth World Potato Congress being held this week in Beijing. Their efforts are intended to facilitate the production of improved varieties of potato that will meet future challenges such as increased yield, disease resistance, and drought tolerance brought on by global population growth and the effects of climate change. For the project, Novogene will sequence samples from nine different taxa of cultivated potato and one closely-related wild species that will be provided by CIP. Company scientists will then use their internal bioinformatics technologies and expertise to reassemble the genomes and align them to the publicly available potato reference genome.The partnership has the potential “to significantly advance potato genomics and benefit current and future research to improve potato cultivation,” Barbara Wells, CIP’s director general, said in a statement. “Five years ago, even attempting such a project would not have been feasible,” she said. “While still no trivial task, the combined knowledge of CIP plant scientists and Novogene scientists along with advances in technology now makes this type of discovery a possibility.”
The project “represents a large first step to enable us to start to understand the complex genomes of potato,” David Ellis, director of CIP’s Genebank, added. Applying Novogene’s technological know-how to the new genomes as well as data contained in the CIP Genebank will help to elucidate genes responsible for important traits such as disease resistance, insect resistance, drought, frost and salinity tolerance, early tuber formation, and enhanced yield, he added.
“We are already seeing this come to light in other crops” and “it is now possible with potato,” Ellis said.