VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Jan. 13 (UPI) — Determining the genetic makeup of sunflowers will lead to species that can be used for food and fuel, scientists in Canada said.
A joint venture between Genome Canada, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Energy, and France’s National Institute for Agricultural Research aims to create a reference genome for sunflowers within four years.
The sunflower — the world’s largest plant family — contains 24,000 species of food crops, medicinal plants, horticulture plants and noxious weeds. The sunflower genome is 3.5 billion letters long, slightly larger than the human genome.
Once the genetic makeup is known, sunflower species could be crossbred to produce a plant that grows up to 15 feet tall with stalks up to 4 inches in diameter while producing high-quality seeds, said project leader Loren Rieseberg of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver.
“The seeds would be harvested for food and oil, while the stalks would be utilized for wood or converted to ethanol,” Rieseberg said. “As a dual-use crop it wouldn’t be in competition with food crops for land.”
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