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University of Arizona plant scientists to unravel maize genome

ence will tell us which genes we need to focus on to develop corn varieties that produce higher yield and better quality with less water on less land," said Wing, who is a professor in the department of plant sciences at the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and a member of BIO5.

Unraveling the corn genome will be a breakthrough with enormous implications for other cereal crops besides corn, including varieties important for Arizona, such as wheat, sorghum and millet.

"A lot of applications will result from this project," said Brian Larkins, a Regents' Professor in the department of plant sciences who works on enhancing the nutritional value of corn. "The cereals are very closely related to each other, so we can transfer a lot of what we learn about gene function in maize to other crops."

One important goal is to enhance drought resistance in corn and other cereal crops, which would greatly benefit regions with less favorable conditions for agriculture. Other improvements aim at increasing yield and nutritional value and optimizing the properties crucial for grain products such as flour, noodles and pasta.

"Once the corn genome sequence is in our hands, these advances can happen much faster," Wing said.

Corn is one of the most important economic crops in the United States, and, together with rice, accounts for 70 percent of worldwide food production. The production of corn-based products with enhanced nutritional value that are safer and less allergenic than the foods we eat today will directly benefit consumers. Corn plants will also prove useful in producing novel compounds, such as industrial feedstocks, biofuels and medicinal products.

Wing's group provides the framework for the project: a so-called physical map that covers about 95 percent of the maize genome. Using the map, the scientists will then generate a draft sequence to reveal the locations of the genes within stretches of so-called non-coding
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Source:University of Arizona


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