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Breeding lentils for higher yields with less resources

Breeding lentils for higher yields with less resources

U of S maps two of the largest legume genomes ever

By Kate Ayers

Staff Reporter

University of Saskatchewan (U of S) researchers and genomic company NRGene of Israel have sequenced two lentil genomes.

The two wild legume genomes that were mapped are the largest legume genomes ever assembled, according to Wednesday’s university release.

The project is looking to diversify the genetics of lentils grown in Canada.

“One of the (project’s) goals is to really understand the difference between the domesticated lentils that are grown in Canada versus wild lentils plants … to see if we can bring in beneficial traits from the wild species into our (lentil varieties),” Crystal Chan, project co-ordinator of the department of plant sciences at U of S said to on Friday.

NRGene has made significant contributions to this project and the research is expected to propel lentil breeding efforts forward.

“NRGene’s technology has dramatically accelerated our research, which aims to shed light on lentil domestication and adaptation,” Kirstin Bett, a project lead at U of S, said in the release.

“Maintaining sustainable lentil production will play an important role in addressing the world’s need for an ecologically sound protein source that is also highly nutritious.”

The NRGene technology is crucial in making this research happen due to the vastness and complexity of the lentil genome.

“Without (NRGene, genome assembly) would take us probably another year and the quality wouldn’t be as good as (NRGene) has provided us,” said Chan.

Previously, breeders were only able to access a small fraction of germplasm diversity.

The research is expected to have an immediate impact on the world food supply, according to the release.

Canada is the world’s largest exporter of lentils, providing the crop for India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Lentils are a principle protein source in these countries.

“By being able to maintain the productivity through expanding the diversity in the breeding program, we will be able to continue to be the leading exporter,” said Chan.

Genome Canada is funding the $7.9-million research project, which is led by scientists Bett and Bert Vandenberg.


Photo credit: Derek Wright for the University of Saskatchewan  

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