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Guinea’s White Yam’s Genome (Dioscorea Rotundata), Decoded By Scientists

After a series of research and information gatherings, an international team of scientists have unraveled the genome of the most popular food staple in Africa, the white Guinea yam.

Yam is a major staple widely consumed in West Africa. This starchy tuber is an important food crop that contributes to the sustenance and sociocultural lives of over 300 million people in the region.

Many species of yam are grown in Africa and the white Guinea yam (Dioscorea rotundata Poir) is believed to be indigenous to West Africa. Despite its importance, little is known about the white Guinea yam, especially at the genetic level. This lack of information led to its branding as an “orphan crop.”

Yam cultivation is hampered by many challenges, including pests and diseases, postharvest losses and the need to develop more sustainable systems of farming for the crop.

To efficiently improve Guinea yam, the genetic diversity of the species and its relationships with wild relatives need to be understood to allow breeders to identify genes controlling useful traits that could be rapidly transferred to elite cultivars by cross breeding.

In 2017, Iwate Biotechnology Research Centre (IBRC), Japan in collaboration with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) succeeded in decoding the whole genome sequence of a Guinea yam plant consisting of 600 million letters of genetic information, setting the stage for improving the crop using genomics information.

Though genetic understanding of crops have its advantages, observers believe the consequences of “playing God” via genetic manipulations must not be encouraged, as the indigenous natives naivety to this crucial aspect science is being exploited

Source/Photo: CGIAR/NewsAgencies

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