Citrus is the world's most widely cultivated fruit crop. In the U.S. alone, the citrus crop was valued at over $3.1 billion in 2013. Originally domesticated in Southeast Asia thousands of years ago before spreading throughout Asia, Europe, and the Americas via trade, citrus is now under attack from citrus greening, an insidious emerging infectious disease that is destroying entire orchards. To help defend citrus against this disease and other threats, researchers worldwide are mobilizing to apply genomic tools and approaches to understand how citrus varieties arose and how they respond to disease and other stresses.
In a study published in the June 2014 edition of Nature Biotechnology, an international consortium of researchers from the United States, France, Italy, Spain, and Brazil analyzed and compared the genome sequences of ten diverse citrus varieties, including sweet and sour orange along with several important mandarin and pummelo cultivars. The consortium, led by Fred Gmitter of the University of Florida Citrus Research and Education Center, found that these diverse varieties are derived from two wild citrus species that diverged in Southeast Asia over five million years ago.
The U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) contributed to the citrus pilot project, Gmitter said, harnessing their expertise in plant genomics and capacity for high throughput sequencing. Initial support for the citrus effort arose 10 years ago under the auspices of the inaugural round of the Community Science Program (CSPformerly the Community Sequencing Program), which seeks to build scientific communities around cornerstone species of relevance to DOE missions in bioenergy, carbon cycling and biogeochemistry. There is a fledgling industrial effort underway in Florida to redirect the five million tons of annual citrus waste generated there from low-value cattle feed to produce ethanol for fuel. The research team's citrus trait anal
|Contact: David Gilbert|
DOE/Joint Genome Institute